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.

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