Those chavista Brits

Jack Staples-Butler

Jack Staples-Butler, a British law student, wrote an interesting article recently about Venezuela – not about the social and economic crisis itself but about the government’s response to it, namely “systemic and organised psychological denial,” which largely takes the form of “externalis[ing] blame through conspiracy theories.” Nicolás Maduro’s regime has spread “[f]antasies of ‘economic warfare’ waged by ‘hoarders’ led by the United States,” and has used these fantasies as an excuse to seize food from grocery stores and impose price controls on food products. “The most disturbing recent development,” wrote Staples-Butler, “is the prospect of Venezuelans becoming a population of forced labourers in government-run agricultural projects, a solution that would take Venezuela from Zimbabwean levels of hunger and inflationary poverty to Cambodian levels of state-led starvation.”

Nicolas Maduro

It is madness – dangerous madness. Yet, as we have noted frequently on this website, Maduro has, until very recently, had more than his share of eager Western supporters. “As recently as June 2015, when this starvation crisis was already in full-swing,” wrote Staples-Butler, “an event organised by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign in London” to cheer chavismo as a heroic challenge to “neoliberalism and privatisation” drew such prominent figures as Jeremy Corbyn (now head of the British Labour Party) and two other members of Parliament, Grahame Morris and Richard Burgon.

Jeremy Corbyn

But more interesting to Staples-Butler than the lingering enthusiasm of British politicians – as well as British intellectuals and journalists – for the Bolivarian Republic is the role they played years earlier in the creation of this crisis. Among the names he mentions, in addition to Corbyn, Morris, and Burgon, are several other prominent MPs and former MPs, including Diane Abbott, John McDowell, and Colin Burgon, journlist Owen Jones (whom we’ve profiled at length on this site). After the 2012 elections, influential British figures organized a propaganda tour of the UK for chavismo politicians and union bosses. Left-wing British groups held events all over the UK to celebrate Venezuelan socialism; among the speakers were Seumas Milne (whom we’ve also profiled here), London mayor Ken Livingstone, Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Jones (again), and chavismo enthusiasts from Cuba and Argentina.

The rewards of socialism: a Venezuelan supermarket

All of these figures, charged Staples-Butler, bear a “moral responsibility” for “the continued suffering of the Venezuelan people at the hands of a regime which they passionately supported.” Yet these Western chavistas, who are accustomed to viewing themselves as moral exemplars, are incapable of admitting to themselves their moral responsibility for the current outrage. “What is most striking in the Western socialist left’s response to Venezuela’s agony,” therefore, “is the absence of response.” They can’t even bring themselves to acknowledge that there’s anything wrong. Venezuela, writes Staples-Butler, “has become a collective unperson to those who formerly proclaimed it an example for humanity’s emulation.” (There are exceptions. The Morning Star, a Communist newspaper to which Corbyn contributes, “continues repeating Venezuelan state propaganda,” describing anti-Maduro protests, for instance, “as a right-wing ‘coup plot.’”)

Hugo Chavez

Staples-Butler predicted that when the international left finally works out a “history” of contemporary Venezuela with which it can live, it will take the line that Hugo Chávez was, indeed, a great man whose brilliant socialist program brought Venezuela prosperity, but that Maduro (who took over after Chávez died in 2013) was a criminal whose corruption ruined everything. Such a fantasy, suggested Staples-Butler, would rescue not only Chávez and socialism but, more important, themselves from responsibility. If this lie were to take hold, it would not be the first ever historical example of such revisionism: after the USSR fell, many ardent Western Communists dealt with the reality of Soviet evils by blaming them entirely on Stalin and depicting him as having betrayed the supposedly benevolent – and beneficial – ideology of Lenin.

Of all the Western apologists for chavismo, Staples-Butler singled out one for special censure. It’s somebody whom we’ve discussed at length on this site – Owen Jones. But Staples-Butler’s comments on Jones in connection with the downfall of Venezuela are reason enough to return to Jones yet again. We’ll do that tomorrow.

Red Redgrave’s comeuppance

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Redgrave in Playing for Time

Not long after Vanessa Redgrave’s 1978 Oscar debacle, which we discussed yesterday, came another controversy: she played a real-life Jewish concentration-camp survivor, Fania Fénelon, in a CBS-TV movie, Playing for Time. Many Jews, including Fénelon herself, objected to Redgrave’s selection to play the part; Sammy Davis Jr. memorably said that it was “like me playing the head of the Ku Klux Klan.” (She won an Emmy for her performance.)

In the years since, Redgrave has remained a devout Marxist. In her 1994 autobiography, she wrote that she was still “absolutely convinced of the necessity of Marxism, and not for a single day has this conviction been shaken.” She’s also continued to be a generous supporter of Islamic terrorism. In 2002, she paid £50,000 bail for Akhmed Zakayev, a Chechen who was accused by the Russian government of involvement in terrorist acts, including that year’s Moscow theater hostage crisis; in 2007, she helped pay bail for a terrorist who’d been arrested immediately upon returning to Britain after his release from Guantánamo.

Jeremy Corbyn

In a 2015 interview, Redgrave celebrated the election of the Marxist Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader in Britain, calling it the “English Spring.” (She may be a Commie, but she’s still enough of an upper-class, far-left English snob of the Sidney and Beatrice Webb/Bloomsbury type to all but ignore the existence of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.)

Redgrave, by the way, didn’t get the last word at the 1978 Oscar telecast we discussed yesterday. Some time after her acceptance speech, in what would become a famous moment in showbiz history, legendary screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky (Marty, Network) took the stage to present the awards for best original and adapted scripts. He began by saying the following:

Before I get on to the writing awards, there’s a little matter I’d like to tidy up – at least if I expect to live with myself tomorrow morning. I would like to say, personal opinion, of course, that I’m sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda.

I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple “thank you” would have sufficed.

Chayevsky’s remarks about Redgrave were received by the audience with immense enthusiasm. (Among those who can be seen applauding lustily in the You Tube clip are Chayevsky’s fellow writers – and fellow Jews – Neil Simon and Arthur Laurents, the latter of whom had actually been a victim of the blacklist; conspicuously not applauding was Shirley MacLaine, whose own fondness for Communism we examined on this site in 2015.) In these times, however, when more and more Hollywood luminaries are loath to criticize Islamic terror but quick to demonize the only democracy in the Middle East, we can’t help but wonder how one of today’s Oscar audiences would respond to a speech like Redgrave’s and to comments like Chayevsky’s.

 

Red Ken’s anti-Semitic fantasies

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingston reached the pinnacle of his career in the years 2000-2008, when he served as mayor of London. Before that he served for many years as a member of Parliament and, later, as head of the Greater London Council. Now 71 years old, he’s one of the veteran figures in the Labour Party – he’s been an active member for 47 years – and has enjoyed wide respect and affection within its ranks, despite his tendency to defend radical Islam and insult Jews and Israel (a country he considers anathema). Thanks to his far-left views, he has long been known by the nickname “Red Ken.”

Naz Shah

But Red Ken is no longer every Labourite’s favorite socialist crank. In an interview with the BBC in April of last year, Livingstone stood up for Labour MP Naz Shah, who’d been suspended from the party for having written or reposted anti-Semitic material in Facebook. For example, she’d compared Israel to Nazi Germany and reposted a meme calling for Israel to be moved to the U.S. In her defense, Livingstone said: “Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel.” In other words, Hitler “was supporting Zionism.” Only later, according to Livingstone, did the Führer go “mad” and decide to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

Seen from one perspective, the former mayor’s remarks were nothing new: as Richard Ferrer put it in the New Statesman, Red Ken has “made gratuitously antagonising Jews into an art form.” While serving as mayor, for example, Livingstone played host to Islamic religious scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, for whom rabid Jew-hatred is an inextricable part of his theology.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Qaradawi, by the way, is also big on hating homosexuals, and when British gay-rights advocates protested Livingstone’s extremely gracious – in fact, downright friendly – treatment of Qaradawi, Livingstone shot back by calling them dirty Islamophobes. Yet even though Jews and gays tend to form an important part of the Labour Party base, especially in London, Livingstone somehow got away with all of this.

He didn’t get away with his comments in defense of Naz Shah, however. Shortly after airing his curious rewrite of modern German history, Livingstone was fired from LBC (formerly the London Broadcasting Company), for which he had co-hosted a TV program for eight years. Not until this April did the Labour Party take up his case. After three days of deliberations, the party’s National Constitutional Committee declared his words about Jews “grossly detrimental,” but decided to suspend him from the party instead of expelling him outright. In the meantime, speaking to reporters, Livingstone made things even worse for himself, claiming that the Nazis had sold guns to Zionists before the war and that this amounted to a “real collaboration” between the two. When asked to apologize, he refused.

Livingstone in his Che/Corbyn t-shirt

After his suspension, Livingstone was photographed wearing a t-shirt bearing an imagine that combined features of Che Guevara and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn – who, like Red Ken, is a radical socialist. It was unclear whether Livingstone, a fan of Che’s and a longtime ally of Corbyn, was trying to make a statement about Corbyn, who had criticized him for his remarks about Jews, or whether the shirt was just part of his ordinary casual wardrobe. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May, a member of the Conservative Party, said that Labour’s failure to dump Livingstone entirely amounted to a “betrayal” of Britain’s Jews. One hundred and seven of Labour’s own MPs, along with 47 Labourites in the House of Lords, agreed, signing on to a statement by the Jewish Labour Movement that criticized the committee’s decision to suspend rather than expel. And the Independent called his suspension “the mildest of rebukes for a 71-year-old who has no intention of running for office and describes himself as a ‘house husband.’”

These developments came at a bad time for Labour. Local elections will be held on May 4, and Labour’s prospects were already looking poor.

Adeste fideles

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor. The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) Original Filename: Was672139.jpg

Yesterday we lamented the New York Times‘s nauseating Castro obit. Unsurprisingly, the Times wasn’t the only newspaper to praise the old thug. While the Washington Post, in the headline of its obituary, honestly – and admirably – labeled Fidel a “dictator,” a slew of other mainstream media honored him with the title of “president” (Bloomberg, Daily Mail) or “leader” (CNN, PBS, Daily Mirror). The BBC went with “icon.” And while U.S. President-elect Donald Trump frankly called Castro a “brutal dictator,” other eminent figures around the world queued up to ooze praise. A quick round-up:

NA-TRUDEAU-EDBOARD5 The editorial board met with Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau on April 5, 2013. CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR
Justin Trudeau

Jill Stein. The Green Party presidential candidate tweeted: “Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!”

Justin Trudeau. Applauding Castro’s “love for the Cuban people,” Canada’s PM said that the tyrant’s demise caused him “deep sorrow,” noted that his father (late PM Pierre Trudeau) “was very proud to call [Castro] a friend,” and mourned “the loss of this remarkable leader.”

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Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker. The EU Commission president tweeted: “With the death of #FidelCastro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many.”

George Galloway. The former British MP tweeted: “You were the greatest man I ever met Comandante Fidel. You were the man of the century.”

Michael D. Higgins. Ireland’s president gushed that “equality and poverty are much less pronounced in Cuba than in surrounding nations” and that Castro stood not only for “freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet.”

June 26-27, 1984, Havana, Cuba --- Jesse Jackson smokes Cuban cigars with Fidel Castro during a controversial visit to Havana in June 1984. Jackson, a candidate for President of the United States, caused a stir in the U.S. government and press by visiting with the Communist leader. --- Image by © Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS
Jesse Jackson with Castro, 1984

Jesse Jackson. The veteran shakedown artist cheered  Castro the “freedom fighter,” “poor people’s hero,” and “liberator.”

Jimmy Carter. The retired peanut farmer wrote: “Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people….We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country.”

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Ban Ki-Moon

Ban Ki-Moon. The UN honcho professed to be “saddened” by the death of Castro, whom he credited with “advances…in the fields of education, literacy and health” and touted as “a strong voice for social justice.”

Jeremy Corbyn. The head of the British Labour Party hailed Castro as a “champion of social justice.”

MANDATORY CREDIT People in Miami celebrate the death of Cuba's Fidel Castro in front of Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, early Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Within half an hour of the Cuban government’s official announcement that former President Fidel Castro had died, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, at age 90, Miami’s Little Havana teemed with life - and cheers. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)
Celebrating in Miami

Obscene, all of it. Any reader who is tempted to believe these plaudits need only watch TV coverage of the exultant celebrations by Cuban exiles in the streets of Miami. In those crowds are people who have firsthand knowledge of Castro’s evil. Many of them, because of Castro, have experienced cruelty, brutality, and suffering beyond description. Castro robbed their freedom, their homes, their land. And, in many cases, imprisoned, tortured, or executed their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters.

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Reynaldo Arenas

If viewing those videos isn’t enough to make the truth sink in, read one or more of the better-informed obits, such as this one in the Independent and this one in the Miami Herald. Or buy the haunting, masterly memoir Before Night Falls by Reynaldo Arenas. No man or woman of conscience can peruse these writings and emerge with the belief that Castro was anything but one of the great totalitarian monsters of the last century, or that his passing is anything but a welcome end to a nightmarish chapter of human history.

Ben Norton, baby-faced Bolshevik

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Ben Norton

Is there a far-left media institution with which he doesn’t have a connection? Although only three years into his career as a pundit, baby-faced Ben Norton, a young American dude based in New York City, has already written hundreds, if not thousands, of articles for such noxious websites as the anti-Zionist Mondoweiss, The Intercept (run by the notorious Glenn Greenwald and pro-Castro scribe Jeremy Scahill), Eric Alterman‘s AlterNet, Middle East Monitor (pro-Hamas), Electronic Intifada (pro-Palestinian), FAIR (Marxists pretending to be objective media critics), Muftah (a Muslim hangout), and the Center for American Progress’s ThinkProgress (where he worked as an intern in 2014). Most prominently, Norton is a regular contributor to Salon. In addition, he blogs frequently at his own website and tweets constantly. As a result, there’s already a massive amount of material out there that proves definitively that Ben Norton is one of the top useful stooges of his generation.

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Obama at Hiroshima

Where to begin? For one thing, Norton is no fan of America, which he’s called a “rogue state.” (“[T]he real American exceptionalism,” read one of his headlines, “is selling the most weapons in the world by far.”) He wrote approvingly about a UN official’s charge that America is an “apartheid state.” (“The US is indeed horribly repressive,” Norton commented, “and its police force is incredibly racist.”) When Obama went to Hiroshima, Norton wrote that America “should apologize for its criminal atomic bombing” of Japan and “stop its nuclear escalation.”

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Noam Chomsky

A corollary of his contempt for America is his disdain for “neoliberalism” and affection for socialism. He pays tribute on a regular basis to the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Noam Chomsky. This spring, he was a passionate tub-thumper for the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders; in May, when Sanders made public his ridiculous list of picks for the Democratic Party platform committee – race hustler Cornel West (who’s also one of Norton’s icons), enviro-hustler Bill McKibben, Israel-hater James Zogby, Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison (who’s cozy with such Islamist front groups as CAIR, the Muslim American Society, and the Islamic Society of North America), and Native American activist Deborah Parker – Norton gave it a standing ovation.

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An image of Palestinian women tweeted by Norton on International Women’s Day 2016

There’s more. On International Women’s Day this year, Norton celebrated the holiday as “an important symbol in communist, socialist, anti-imperialist, and other liberation movements” (although he lamented that a day of commemoration founded by socialists had been “co-opted by large corporations like Microsoft in order to celebrate the increasing diversity of the ruling class”). “U.S. politics today,” he suggested in April, “demonstrates just how correct early-20th-century socialist economist and revolutionary heroine Rosa Luxemburg was when she famously declared that society faces two options: socialism or barbarism.” This statement would seem to reflect a remarkable ignorance of – or indifference to? – the history of the twentieth century, in which socialism proved, in one nation after another, to be the very gateway to barbarism.

More tomorrow.

Labour’s Madame Mao

We’ve already written here about the head of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who’s a fan of Hugo Chávez’s disastrous socialist “revolution” in Venezuela, and about the party’s recently appointed spokesman, Seumas Milne, who (to put it mildly) has a soft spot for Stalin.

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Diane Abbott

Well, here’s another high-profile Labourite for whom the label of useful stooge is manifestly appropriate: Diane Abbott, an MP since 1987 and currently Shadow Secretary of State for International Development. Abbott was Britain’s first black female MP, and has long been notorious for her incendiary comments about race. In 1988, for example, she told an audience in the U.S. that “the British invented racism.” And eight years later, she complained that a hospital in her “multicultural” district had hired nursing trainees from Finland. Why? Because, she said, the “blonde, blue-eyed” Finns had probably “never have met a black person before, let alone touched one,” and were therefore incapable of handling black patients. “The hospital,” she maintained, “should have taken on Caribbean staff – they know the language, British culture and institutions.”

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Ian Bruce

Abbott’s remarks outraged one of her Tory colleagues, Ian Bruce, who said: “I have never heard such racist rubbish from an MP in recent years….Most Finnish girls are dark-haired,” he noted, and all of the Nordic nations “have people from African and Caribbean countries living there.” The Royal College of Nursing reacted too, issuing a statement to the effect that Abbott’s comments seemed intended to “set nurse against nurse.” The story even made the news in Finland, where Katri Luukka, head of a nursing school in Helsinki, called Abbott’s statement “[r]eally thick, even for an MP.” The Spectator pointed out that some nursing trainees from Finland were, in fact, black, and that the then-reigning Miss Finland was also black.

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Andrew Neil

Did Abbott learn from that misstep? Nope. On a BBC TV program in 2010, she said that “West Indian mums will go to the wall for their children” – in response to which the host, Andrew Neil, asked: “So black mums love their kids more than white mums, do they?” The next year, in another TV appearance, she called David Cameron and Nick Clegg, the then leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties respectively, “two posh white boys.” And the year after that, she stated in a tweet that whites “love playing ‘divide and rule.’ We should not play their game.”

MP for Stratford on Avon Nadhim Zahawi adjusts his glasses during a discussion on 'The United Kingdom in Action' during the second day of the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC, Birmingham.
Nadhim Zahawi

After that tweet, there were calls for her to resign. Iraqi-born Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi said, “If this was reversed, I guarantee a white politician would have to resign their frontbench post or be sacked.” But Abbott, in a live TV interview with Sky News (see the first video below), held firm, insisting that the problem was not with her views but with people who’d interpreted her words “maliciously.” Her tough stand didn’t last for long, however. During the Sky News interview, her cell phone rang. The caller was Ed Miliband, who at the time was the Labour Party leader. While the TV cameras continued to roll, he gave Abbott “a severe dressing down,” ordering her “to apologise unreservedly” for her tweet. She obeyed – kind of. “I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people,” she said in a statement released after the interview. “I do not believe in doing that. I apologise for any offence caused.”

But none of these foolish remarks was quite as disgraceful as a claim that Abbott made on a TV chat show (see video below) back in 2008 – and that the Spectator reminded us of in a recent item. Michael Portillo, sitting beside her on the show, observed that Prince Harry had been widely criticized for wearing an SS uniform to a party – but “had he worn a Mao outfit, nobody would have blinked.” When host Andrew Neil asked why this was the case, Abbott chimed in: “I suppose that some people would judge that on balance Mao did more good than wrong. We can’t say that about the Nazis.” 

Exactly what good did Mao do, in Abbott’s view, that would outweigh his murder of tens of millions of people? Abbott’s answer: “He led his country from feudalism, he helped to defeat the Japanese, and he left his country on the verge of the great economic success they are having now.”

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Mao Zedong

Well, let’s break that down. On her first point: yes, Mao led the Chinese from feudalism…to totalitarianism. On her second point: no, Mao didn’t help defeat the Japanese; Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang did. Third, while Taiwan, under the Nationalist Chinese, was becoming a developed nation, the Chinese economy under Mao remained undeveloped. Even now, four decades after Mao’s death, when China is considered an economic powerhouse, its per capital GDP, at around $7,000, is still only a fraction of Taiwan’s, at $32,000. In short, Mao didn’t pave the way for his country’s economic success – his imposition of brutal totalitarian rule prevented his people from attaining Western-style prosperity.

Of course, even if Abbott’s assertions about Mao’s supposed accomplishments were absolutely true, her belief that they somehow outweighed or legitimized or made up for his annihilation of tens of millions of his own people is reprehensible, and should have resulted in her immediate forced resignation from Parliament. But no: she’s still there, and seems to have no plans to leave anytime soon. 

Whitewashing Stalin: Seumas Milne

seumas-milne

Norman-bates (3)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.”

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Martin Amis

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.

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Niall Ferguson

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.

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Milne sends his kids to the Tiffin School, Kingston-upon-Thames

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:  

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Josef Stalin

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.

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Kate Godfrey

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. 

Seumas Milne, Ahmedinejad fan

Yesterday we met Seumas Milne, a longtime Guardian writer and editor – and ardent apologist for Stalinism – who’s been tapped by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to be his spokesman. We’ve seen that his appointment appalled former Labour MP Tom Harris, who deplored Milne’s undisguised admiration for jihadists and lack of sympathy for the British soldiers they killed.

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Seumas Milne

Harris wasn’t alone in his revulsion. Michael Moynihan, profiling Milne in the Daily Beast, waxed sarcastic:

Wherever there’s an aggrieved terrorist or an undemocratic regime engaged in an existential struggle with the West, you can rely on Seumas Milne, Oxford-educated warrior for the Third World and former comment editor of The Guardian, to offer a full-throated, if slightly incoherent, defense. If your country’s constitution mandates the burning down of orphanages and the conscription of 6-year-olds in to the army, Milne will likely have your back, provided you also express a deep loathing for the United States and capitalism.

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Michael Moynihan

Moynihan quoted Milne on various subjects.

Communism: in the USSR and its satellites, it “delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality.”

The Soviet bloc: it “encompassed genuine idealism and commitment” to social justice.

East Germany: it was “a country of full employment, social equality, cheap housing, transport and culture, one of the best childcare systems in the world, and greater freedom in the workplace than most employees enjoy in today’s Germany.”

West Germany’s annexation of East Germany: it entailed “a loss of women’s rights, closure of free nurseries and mass unemployment.”

Mahmoud Ahmedinejad: he “stand[s] up for [Iran’s] independence, expose[s] elite corruption on TV and use[s] Iran’s oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority.”

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Che: “innate humanity”

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara: two men whose legacy is one of “innate humanity.”

Meanwhile, in the Spectator, Alex Massie depicted Milne’s appointment as “consistent,” given Corbyn’s own admiration for Cuba and Venezuela, hatred of “American hegemony,” etc. If that’s where you’re coming from, asked Massie, why not pick a spokesman “whose back catalogue features defences of, or explanations and occasional justifications for, inter alia, Joe Stalin, Slobodan Milosevic, Iraqi Baathists attacking British troops, and much else besides”? Why not hire a guy whose published oeuvre “is stuffed with articles downplaying the horrors of Sovietism and then, latterly, redefining Russian aggression as defensive manoeuvres designed to combat – of course – western neoliberalism”?

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Alex Massie

Massie quoted one of Milne’s many cockeyed statements about the USSR: “Whatever people thought about the Soviet Union and its allies and what was going on in those countries, there was a sense throughout the twentieth century that there were alternatives – socialist political alternatives.” Yes: alternatives that involved subjecting citizens to a culture of fear, denying them even a trace of individual liberty, imposing upon them policies of forced collectivization and planned famine that took millions of lives, and establishing a network of forced-labor camps to which millions of those citizens were sentenced for their political convictions or religious beliefs – or for no reason at all.

More on Milne tomorrow.

Meet Labour’s new pro-jihad spokesman

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Seumas Milne

His name is Seumas Milne, and he’s the new head of communications for Jeremy Corbyn, who in September was named head of the Labour Party in Britain. We’ve already taken a look at Corbyn himself, who’s a big fan of Vladimir Putin and an admirer of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. As we’ve seen, the ascent of such a far-left character to his party’s top job occasioned considerable unease among Labourites and Tories alike.

Milne, it turns out, is even worse. Son of a former director of the BBC, he’s an alumnus of Winchester College, of Balliol College, Oxford, and of Birkbeck College, London University. He served as business mananger of a Stalinist monthly called Straight Left. Later, he spent three years at The Economist (it’s interesting, by the way, to learn that The Economist had no problem hiring a Stalinist). Then he moved to The Guardian, where he reported from around the world and then, for several years, edited the paper’s comments section.

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Jeremy Corbyn

These days, Milne might not call himself a Stalinist, but his politics speak for themselves. Briefly put, he despises capitalism, hates the U.S. and Israel and deplores Britain’s alliance with both, and is a reliable apologist for Communists and jihadists everywhere. In piece after piece, he’s warned against equating Stalin with Hitler, against reducing the USSR to Stalin, and against reducing Communism to the USSR. He’s eager to make the point that just became the USSR did some bad things and ended up on the ashheap of history doesn’t mean that Communism itself is, by its very nature, undesirable or unworkable. Repeatedly, he’s argued that Stalin’s abuses were no worse than those committed by the British Empire, and that today’s jihadist assaults on British targets are defensible payback for today’s British (and American) imperialism.

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Osama bin Ladin, Guardian op-ed contributor

Tom McTague, reporting on Milne’s apppointment in the Daily Mail, noted that Milne had once published a speech by Osama bin Ladin on the Guardian‘s website, running it under the terrorist’s byline as if it were an ordinary op-ed. Two days after 9/11, Milne wrote that Americans “can’t see why they’re hated” and that they were “reaping a dragons’ teeth harvest they themselves sowed.” At a 2014 anti-Israel rally, he expressed the view that Israel has no right to self-defense but that Palestinians do. “It isn’t terrorism to fight back,” Milne maintained. “The terrorism is the killing of citizens by Israel on an industrial scale.”

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Fusilier Lee Rigby

Milne’s appointment brought cries of outrage from many quarters. In the Telegraph, former Labour MP Tom Harris described him as “a hate figure for the right of the Labour Party” who is “contemptuous of traditional working class attitudes to Queen and country.” Harris cited with disgust Milne’s statement that the brutal May 2013 murder, in London, of Fusilier Lee Rigby by two jihadists “was not terrorism in the normal sense of an indiscriminate attack on civilians” because “Rigby was a British soldier who had taken part in multiple combat operations in Afghanistan.” On the contrary, Rigby’s killing was the “predicted” (and thus, one gathered, permissible) “consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others in eight direct military interventions in Arab and Muslim countries.” Elsewhere, noted Harris, Milne served up “glowing descriptions of Iraqi insurgents attempting to blow up [UK] voters’ sons and daughters wearing British army uniforms.”

Others shared Harris’s revulsion. We’ll move on to them tomorrow.

Jeremy Corbyn, chavista

As we saw yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn is a big Putin booster. That being the case, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s also an ardent admirer of Venezuela’s chavista government.

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With the caudillo himself

Never mind that Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, have declared war on individual liberty, trashed human rights, jailed opposition leaders, and sponsored terrorist cells; never mind that they’ve taken crime and corruption to new heights, surrounding themselves with grasping, cartoonish thugs who will apparently do anything to anybody to put a few more céntimos in their pockets; never mind that their ideologically driven economic policies have made their oil-rich nation inconceivably poor, depriving ordinary citizens of desperately needed medications and emptying the supermarket shelves of basic goods. No, forget all that: to dogmatic socialists like Corbyn, what matters is the ideology itself, not its real-world consequences.

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The triumph of the Bolivarian Revolution, summed up in a single picture

To be sure, like many other dogmatic socialists, Corbyn has apparently managed to convince himself that the real-world consequences of chavista ideology have been just dandy. He’s praised Venezuela as “an example of what social justice can achieve.” In 2009, he lauded Chávez for “seriously conquering poverty by emphatically rejecting the Neo Liberal policies of the world’s financial institutions.” In 2012, he traveled to Caracas so he could be there in person to celebrate Chávez’s re-election. Upon Chávez’s death in March 2013, Corbyn tweeted: “Thanks Hugo Chavez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world.”

His zeal for chavismo didn’t end with the death of Chávez. Last year, Corbyn called into Maduro’s weekly radio show to eulogize the just-deceased UK socialist honcho Tony Benn, and they talked like old buddies, taking turns trashing capitalism, lauding the politics of Benn and Chávez, and patting each other on the back. This year, Corbyn said the following: “When we celebrate, and it is a cause for celebration, the achievements of Venezuela, in jobs, in housing, in health, in education, but above all its role in the whole world as a completely different place, then we do that because we recognise what they have achieved.”

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Venezuelans queuing up for groceries

Corbyn’s devotion to the chavista cause has not gone unnoticed in Britain. This past July, only weeks before he became party boss, a Labour MP unhappy with the prospects of a Corbyn victory told a Telegraph reporter that if the man from Islington were to win, it would be “an absolute disaster. The first thing on his agenda will probably be twinning the UK with Venezuela.” In August, Corbyn won the endorsement of a British group called Hands Off Venezuela, which cheered him as “a long standing supporter of the Bolivarian revolution.” Indeed, the group went even further, stating that “[t]he spirit of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, in a certain sense, is the spirit of the Bolivarian revolution being brought into British politics: the struggle against oppression, injustice, exploitation, imperialism and war, and in defence of health care, education, housing for all, the struggle for socialism.”

Well, here we go. Somewhere up there, Chávez is smiling.