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Writing in the Guardian in the aftermath of the riots Seumas Milne was one of the few voices offering a justification for looting: "While bankers have publicly looted the country's wealth and got away with it, it's not hard to see how those who are locked out of the gravy train might think they were entitled to help themselves to a mobile phone." 

Imagine that the Daily Mail or Telegraph had appointed as Comment Editor someone who had been the business manager of a factional British National Party publication whose raison d'être was to attack its leader Nick Griffin for having sold out "white nationalism". Imagine too that this editor would specialise in pieces justifying the crimes of the Nazis and arguing that — while he had made mistakes — there was much for which to be grateful to Hitler. To even think of such a possibility is to realise that it could simply never happen. Yet Seumas Milne's position is the far-Left mirror of this far-Right scenario.

He was born in 1958, the son of Alasdair Milne, then a BBC producer and later Director-General until sacked in 1987 at Margaret Thatcher's behest for his alleged left-wing bias. Seumas was sent to Winchester and then read PPE at Balliol College, Oxford. With such a background, he naturally progressed to become business manager of a Communist Party publication, Straight Left, which claimed simply to be a weekly paper aimed at the "wider labour movement". It was in fact a faction within the CP aiming to keep it on a solidly Stalinist path. Its main comment piece was always signed Harry Steel, a nom de plume in homage of its heroes: Harry Pollitt, the party's Stalin-era General Secretary, and the Man of Steel himself. 

Milne became a reporter and then Labour Editor at the Guardian, writing a book, The Enemy Within: Thatcher's Secret War against the Miners, on dirty tricks by MI5 against the National Union of Mineworkers and Arthur Scargill. He was the Guardian's Comment Editor from 2001 to 2007 and is now a columnist and Associate Editor. 

One might forgive Milne's youthful Stalinism if he had moved on — but the evidence suggests the reverse. In 2002 Martin Amis published Koba the Dread, on why a generation of Western intellectuals contrived to whitewash Stalin's crimes. Milne's response: "Amis's book is in reality only the latest contribution to the rewriting of history that began in the dying days of the Soviet Union and has intensified since its collapse...the number of victims of Stalin's terror has been progressively inflated over recent years." What so appals Milne is that anyone might speak of Stalin in the same terms as Hitler. While he acknowledges that Stalin made mistakes and indeed that 799,455 people were executed between 1921 and 1953, these must be judged against Uncle Joe's many achievements. His crimes are nothing, argues Milne, compared to those of European colonialism: "If Lenin and Stalin are regarded as having killed those who died of hunger in the famines of the 1920s and 1930s, then Churchill is certainly responsible for the four million deaths in the avoidable Bengal famine of 1943."

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but but but
November 4th, 2011
5:11 PM
nice once Daulat you useless twerp.

Daulat Ram
October 2nd, 2011
5:10 AM
The simple truth is that neither the heroes of the Left or of the Right were saints. The best of the Left stood for some great ideals, but the worst of them betrayed those ideals. The difference I suppoe is that the Left at least had ideals to betray, while the Right had none. Stalin betrayed communism, but Hitler and Churchill fulfilled the elitist ideology of their tribe.

Daulat Ram
October 2nd, 2011
5:10 AM
Milne says: "If Lenin and Stalin are regarded as having killed those who died of hunger in the famines of the 1920s and 1930s, then Churchill is certainly responsible for the four million deaths in the avoidable Bengal famine of 1943." This seems a valid point. How can it be OK for Churchill to starve Indians? I hold Stalin to be a mass killer without excuse but the work of reputed and fiercely anti-Soviet historians like Timothy Syder, based on the archives made available after the Soviet collapse, show that he killed far less people than Hitler.

mark mcfarland
September 10th, 2011
2:09 PM
John Steffan should read the article. Godwin's Law refers to last straw sniping when all your argument lies in tatters around you. MM doesn't fall foul of Godwin's Law at all; his point is more subtle, to invoke the reader's imagination to celebrations of Hitler's industrial prowess or Mussolini's ability to make the trains run on time. Milne's hideousness is that he does precisely that on a regular basis by invoking the triumphs of leftist monsters such as Lenin and Stalin. The monsters of the 20th century - left and right - they are all the same.

Erica Blair
September 9th, 2011
9:09 PM
I'm afraid you have fallen into an heffalump trap. The original 'Harry Steel' was one Fergus Nicholson, but one of his Straight Left acolytes adopted the moniker and went on to use it for the name of his blog. The blog in question? Harry's Place!

Steffan John
September 7th, 2011
9:09 PM
You got into Godwin's law in the second paragraph, so I didn't bother to read the rest as I knew you lost the argument - as eloquently pointed out by one of your fine colleagues. http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/node/2387

Shaun Harbord
September 6th, 2011
5:09 PM
"Straight Left celebrated Stalinism. Don't take my word for it....." I can assure you that I won't take your word for it after a hatch-job article like the one you wrote. I am well aware from my own reading that some nutters on the Left celebrated Stalinism, Pol Pot, Mao and every other 20th century monster and, sad people,small-minded and thankfully small in number, they probably still do but that does not excuse your sloppy journalism in your 'profile' of Milne. To respond as you do suggests that you must be very worried indeed.

Michael Mosbacher
September 5th, 2011
6:09 PM
Shaun Harbord - anyone is free to look up Seaumas Milne's original Guardian pieces and in my view most fair minded readers would conclude that I have in no way misrepresented Milne. Also, if anything my comment "Seumas Milne's position is the far-Left mirror of this far-Right scenario" is rather too kind on Mr Milne. The BNP - for all their hideousness - at least shamefacdely and dishonestly deny that their ideology has any association with Nazism, or indeed fascism in general. Straight Left celebrated Stalinism. Don't take my word for it - read the rest of the far-left press and see how they regard Straight Left.

Shaun Harbord
September 4th, 2011
7:09 PM
"Yet Seumas Milne's position is the far-Left mirror of this far-Right scenario." Such simplictic linkage grossly distorts Milne's positions and reflects only on the writer's poverty of argument. Anyone who reads Milne's articles will recognise that distortion and treat Michael Mosbacher with contempt. Really, if Standpoint's way of "arguing" is to simply defame and distort - it happened last month in even cruder fashion with Jacqueline Rose - then you must be very afraid.

JoshT
September 1st, 2011
4:09 PM
I've always found him to be an ill-educated fool. He chastises all those who compare Stalinism to Nazism. Stalin killed more people for a start. He had longer to do it because he killed all of his opponents. His crimes were hidden for so long because he killed the intelligentsia. Thank God himself for Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whom Milne no doubt regards as a kulak class traitor.

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