In 2005, the Guardian printed an article by a trainee journalist, Dilpazier Aslam entitled “We Rock the Boat“. In it, Mr Aslam discussed the reaction of young Muslim men to the war in Iraq, against the context of the 7/7 bombings, which had taken place earlier that month.
It was then discovered that Dilpazier Aslam was a member of a small, totalitarian and anti-democratic political sect: Hizb ut Tahrir. The fact of his membership was not disclosed to the readership of the Guardian. It should have been, because it was material to the subject in hand. The author was an extremist who was a member of a party that pushed a vicious and objectionable politics. Without this knowledge, it was impossible for the reader to appreciate the fact that they were reading propaganda for Mr Aslam’s jihadist politics.
The Guardian sacked Mr Aslam, and printed a ‘correction’. Mr Aslam later sued the Guardian for unfair dismissal, and the Guardian paid out, without admitting liability. I have been told that, although the Comments Editor was unaware of Mr Aslam’s extremist politics, another senior journalist with an interest in Islamism was fully aware – and rather thrilled – about having a real live jihadist on the Guardian staff. If that it true, the Guardian was quite right to compensate Mr Aslam.
This week, the New Statesman published a review of Richard Seymour’s new book, The Liberal Defence of Murder. The review was written by a young journalist called Owen Hatherley.
Owen Hatherley, like Richard Seymour, is an activist in a small, totalitarian and anti-democratic political sect: the Socialist Workers’ Party:
“The Tomb” has been noted for attacks on the “pro-war left”, those liberals and ex-socialists associated with various convocations – the blog Harry’s Place, the Euston Manifesto – which argue that the “Islamofascist” enemy must be fought by any means necessary. Essentially, this is the subject of Seymour’s first book.
Interesting choice of words, “by any means necessary”. It isn’t one that I like to use. Neither do I favour the term “Islamofascist”. I prefer “clerical fascist“, “jihadist” or “Islamist” or”takfri”, depending on what I’m discussing.
Members of the Socialist Workers’ Party do use the term “by any means necessary”. Remember this?
The StWC reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary, to secure such ends.
The New Statesman should have disclosed Owen Hatherley’s affiliation to the Socialist Workers’ Party when it published this review. It would not be generally know that Richard Seymour and Owen Hatherley are a member of the same party. That is a highly relevant fact because the SWP is not an ordinary political party. Rather, it is a tiny cult like organisation, which operates according to the principles of democratic centralism. As a Labour Party member, I’m allowed to criticise my party, when it gets things wrong: and I do. By contrast, SWP members are required to follow, slavishly, the party line set by the Central Committee.
This is not simply a matter of Owen Hatherley having comradely feelings for Richard Seymour. Seymour’s writings are an echo chamber for the politics of the Socialist Workers Party. Were Hatherley to have provided a critical assessment of Seymour’s book on the pages of the New Statesman, he would risk discipline and expulsion from the Socialist Workers’ Party.
This could therefore not have been an honest review. The New Statesman has deceived its readership by hiding the fact of Mr Hatherley’s membership of the Socialist Workers’ Party from its readers. I ask the editor of the New Statesman, Jason Cowley, to remedy this failure online as soon as possible, and it its print edition next week.
NB: Owen Hatherley writes for Socialist Worker, but is not a member of the SWP. As Hatherley is not a member of the SWP, he isn’t bound by democratic centralism, and therefore would not have been prevented from writing an honest review of Seymour’s book. By this measure, the New Statesman did not deceive its readership. That is not the case in relation to Seymour’s review of Harman’s book (see below)
The politics of the Socialist Workers’ Party are revolutionary socialist. Its aim is to impose a communist dictatorship on this country, by “any means necessary”. The means it has chosen, include touring the notorious anti-semite Gilad Atzmon around Britain, and forming an electoral alliance in RESPECT with the clerical fascist south Asian party, Jamaat-e-Islami. Even though the alliance ended in utter failure, the Socialist Workers Party’s activists attack as “Islamophobes”, anybody who points this out.
A common reaction on a part of the British Left to Nick Cohen’s book, “What’s Left“, was that an outrageous and unfair attempt was being made to smear the mainstream Left, by associating it with the nasty extremism of the Socialist Workers’ Party.
But Nick Cohen is right. The New Statesman is a mainstream left journal. Yet, it sees absolutely nothing wrong with hiring one extremist to review a book by another extremist – whose politics he is not permitted by party doctrine to question – and then hiding that fact from their readership.
“a”, in the comments points out that the New Statesman has form. Here’s Richard Seymour reviewing a book by his party boss, Chris Harman. Seymour does not mention the fact that that Harman is a Socialist Workers’ Party activist, and the New Statesman doesn’t disclose Seymour’s membership of the Socialist Workers’ Party.
What contempt for its readership.
Owen Hatherley says that he is not a member of the SWP. He merely writes for their paper on politics and architecture.
In describing Hatherley as an ‘activist”, my post is techincally correct. He clearly is an “activist”, in the same way that Michael Rosen is.
Does this make a huge difference. Yes, in one sense – if he is really not a member of the Socialist Workers Party, then he is not bound by “democratic centralism”. Therefore, he would not have been obliged to support Seymour’s regurgitation of the Socialist Workers’ Party line, and would be free to provide a critical assessment of the book.
However, ask yourself. How many people do you know who would write for the newspaper of a totalitarian and anti-democratic organisation, without being substantially aligned with its politics?
Do you know any people who write for the British National Party’s newspapers who are not fascists?