in my view

Barbarians bust a gut

by Mike Rosen

"LAST TIME I saw you was about two years ago," a teacher said to me this week, "and you were pleading with us at a meeting to vote Labour. I bet you feel different now." Well, yes and no. Part of me thinks no, I don't feel different. I never did believe Labour would deliver much. I'm not someone who's queuing at the Lost Property Office looking for my mislaid socialist dream. But then another part of me thinks yes, I do feel a bit different. Even at my most cynical I don't think I pictured Robin Cook and Clare Short getting quite such a kick out of dropping bombs and killing people.

I made the same mistake as millions of people who think that if a politician is "one of ours", he or she is "on our side". So, if for a moment I were to define myself as purely and simply "old 60s lefty", then I could perhaps watch people like Jack Straw, Mo Mowlam and Kim Howells and think, "That's me up there. My kind are doing their best. All those good old student activists, anti-apartheid and CND stalwarts now in power. We can believe in them, can't we?" In truth, I have to keep reminding myself it's only OK to believe in these people if I had thought it was right for an Italian worker to have believed in Mussolini because he was Italian, or that it was OK for a woman to believe in Thatcher because she was a woman.

"But no," say the Clare Shorts and Robin Cooks, "you are right to believe in us. Look what we old student lefties are doing. We're using the might of NATO to wage a just war, a lefty war, a war to stop genocide. We are being true to our old lefty principles." And liberal politicians all over the West are busting a gut to sell this to us, like they're Live Aid with bombs. Maybe some liberal minded singers and comedians will come up with Red Bomb Day and then they could link up with Clinton in New York playing his sax in order to raise money to buy ammo for the Balkans.

But this tearjerking lark is all a fantastic conjuring trick. Trillions of dollars of our money is being handed to armaments companies and armies. George Robertson has said, "We can go on for a very long time indeed. We have no artificial constraint on what we are doing." What he means is almost too horrible to comprehend. Robertson is saying that good old Labour politicians can spend as much of our money as they want, for as long as they want, purely and simply in order to destroy a whole country, but they can't spend it on feeding and housing people. They can't give it to people over there or over here so that they can build homes, schools and hospitals. They can't even spend it in ways that could feed, clothe and house the very same refugees they're claiming to be helping. This is the sick system they've locked themselves into.

My problem with Cook, Short, Straw and the Labour left is that I know they know they've all spent many years of their lives dreaming of turning swords into ploughshares, guns into butter, bombs into homes. They told us this so that we would vote for them. But as the last bridge sinks into the Danube, instead of stopping in their tracks, overcome with guilt, shame and self loathing, they have the nerve to try and sell us this war like they are the dispensers of socialism, rather than what they really are—dealers in barbarism.

ON BEHALF of Paul Foot, we would like to thank all his friends and comrades who have sent messages of support and solidarity. Paul is out of immediate danger but is still very ill.