Seumas Milne, antisemitism and “the usual internet suspects”.


An apparatchik named Seumas Milne, who worked for the decidedly pro-Stalinist magazine called Straight Left, and who’s currently serving as the Guardian’s Associate Editor, has written a book.

I don’t intend on reading it because, well, life is short, my personal list of ‘books to read’ grows larger by the day and I never really did fancy the political musings of unrepentant communists – even during my turbulent college years when I was most receptive to the mindless clichés of the delusional left.

So, I am indebted to Owen Hatherley for having penned a Guardian review of the book, ‘The Revenge of History’, a collection of Milne’s essays in the Guardian over the last 10 years.

Relevant to those who follow this blog, Hatherley’s literary criticism takes a brief detour to lash out at those believed to be Milne’s critics.

He writes:

“Although slandered by the usual internet suspects as an “antisemite”, he’s been one of the few to expose this polite, Council of Europe-sanctioned form of Holocaust revisionism.” [emphasis added]

Intrigued by the suggestion that Milne – who has praised the anti-imperialist “resistance movements” in Kabul, Baghdad, and Gaza City, and parroted the lie of the Jenin “massacre” – may have been a closet philo-Semite all along, I did a bit of research in an attempt to learn more about the heroic defender of Holocaust memory.

The only thing even remotely related to Hatherley’s characterization I could find was an essay at ‘Comment is Free’ by Milne in 2009 titled This rewriting of history is spreading Europe’s poison‘.  

Writes Milne:

“…across eastern Europe, the Baltic republics and the Ukraine, the drive to rewrite history is being used to relativise Nazi crimes and rehabilitate collaborators. At the official level, it has focused on a campaign to turn August 23 – the anniversary of the non-aggression pact – into a day of commemoration for the victims of communism and nazism.

In July that was backed by the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, following a similar vote in the European parliament and a declaration signed by Vaclav Havel and others branding “communism and nazism as a common legacy” of Europe that should be jointly commemorated because of “substantial similarities”.

That east Europeans should want to remember the deportations and killings of “class enemies” by the Soviet Union during and after the war is entirely understandable. So is their pressure on Russia to account, say, for the killing of Polish officers at Katyn – even if Soviet and Russian acknowledgment of Stalin’s crimes already goes far beyond, for example, any such apologies by Britain or France for the crimes of colonialism.

But the pretence 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 – is a mendacity that tips towards Holocaust denial.”

To those still under the illusion that Soviet repression wasn’t indeed as murderous as Nazism, I’d recommend the book “The Black Book of Communism” – a thorough account of the mass murder committed in every Communist country — the Soviet Union, the East European countries, China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Cuba, Mongolia – which quantifies the death toll of Marx’s little theory at no less than 100 million.

More importantly, while reasonable people can debate the relative crimes of the Soviet Union and German Nazism, it certainly isn’t antisemitic, nor an offense to Holocaust memory, to unapologetically condemn the atrocities of Josef Stalin – whose purges, forced collectivization, starvation, and ethnic cleansing of ‘counter-revolutionaries’ arguably extinguished 20 million souls.

Milne wasn’t condemning Holocaust revisionism. He was merely defending Stalinist revisionism.

Those of us among “the usual internet suspects” need not offer an ounce of gratitude to those who cynically champion the cause of dead Jews but seemingly remain indifferent to the aspirations of living Jews.

11 comments on “Seumas Milne, antisemitism and “the usual internet suspects”.

  1. Shameless Milne. Not the “Revenge of” but “The Revision of History”. Rewriting the past is what Marxist-Leninist-Trotskist do best.

  2. “An apparatchik named Seumas Milne, who worked for the decidedly pro-Stalinist magazine called Straight Left, and who’s currently serving as the Guardian’s Associate Editor, has written a book.”

    LOL!

  3. Owen Hatherley, the reviewer, is a sympathiser of the so-called Socialist Workers Party. He can be guaranteed to provide tame reviews for far-left screeds in the Gruan and the Indie.

  4. Unrepentant Stalinists like Milne are the Nazis of the left. The only reason they didn’t have their own holocaust was because the Nazis got there first.

  5. More importantly, while reasonable people can debate the relative crimes of the Soviet Union and German Nazism, it certainly isn’t antisemitic, nor an offense to Holocaust memory, to unapologetically condemn the atrocities of Josef Stalin

    But do Milne or Hatherley actually suggest that it is?

    • Normally the Soviet historiographie always included the victims of the antisemitic massacres of the NS inside the Sovietunion in the general number of overall murder of Soviet citizens. It never differentiated and distinguished the specific antisemitc annihilation, but took a general approach of validating the mass murder as Anti-Communism mixed up with racial hatred of Slavs..
      Which is not false, but hides the central piece of NS ideology.
      And due the Anti-semitic turn in late 1948, the Sovietunion deliberately diminished the role of Jews and the Holocaust.
      Therefore it is not astonishing that communist and left extemists belittled and belittle the Holocaust, and primarily adress the communist victims, the communist resistance and so on.
      For them, and I had some discussions concerning this, also at Opendemocracy where some left extremists are hiding, the Jews are just one group of victims besides others, even for Jewish left extremists, and it is more or less a dirty trick that they got some much attention in the last twenty years.
      I couldn`t figure out if it was a Jewish or a bourgeois dirty trick to them because I was quickly banned.

      • I know what you mean about Stalin apologists being selective with the figures.

        But my question was actually: do Milne or Hatherley suggest – as claimed by CiFWatch – that unapologetically condemning the atrocities of Stalin is antisemitic and /or an offense to Holocaust memory??

        I don’t think they do, do they?

        • “But the pretence 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 – is a mendacity that tips towards Holocaust denial.”
          Well, in totalitarian minds all things are equal.
          Soviet mass murder concerned mostly Soviet citizens, the belittling of mass murder as “repression” is one side of this apology, the other side is that Eastern Europe countries tend to equate their victims, the national tragedy with the Holocaust, but this is not a Holocaust denial, and due to the double role of these countries.
          It is an false argument of monsterous minds I must say.
          German revisionists for example try since decades to come up with the German victims of ethnic cleansing or of the bombings to balance the horror of German atrocities, but they do not deny the Holocaust.

      • Zizek, Ranciére and Badiou are working on the rehabilitation of communism, bypassing and explaining Stalinism as just one aberration which led into desaster and mass murder.
        But not only that, even belittling by evoking a bigger picture (the other) the Lacanian Zizek is working on an excuse and a legitimation, in my opinion.
        And this works as reassurance for these scoundrels.

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