[Marxism] Diana Johnstone, Ordfront and the "bombing left"
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 26 11:24:20 MST 2005
In her Counterpunch article dealing with the Chomsky-Guardian controversy
that involved her as a principal player, Diana Johnstone addresses an
earlier such attack from the Guardian, this time by Ed Vulliamy, a member
in good standing of the Cruise Missile left, who wrote:
>>In Sweden, here they come again, through the pages of a magazine called
Ordfront, or Word Front. Last year, it carried an interview with the author
Diane Johnstone, about her book Fool's Crusade, which expresses doubts over
the number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre; the authencity of the
Racak massacre in Kosovo; the use of systematic rape in the war in Bosnia;
and the true figure of Bosnian war dead (the official estimate is more than
200,000 - Johnstone claims 50,000). And just as before, members of the
chattering classes, unbelievably, have hailed this poison as outstanding
work, in a letter signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy,
Tariq Ali, John Pilger, <et.al>.<<
Johnstone responds to Vulliamy as follows:
>>From this citation, it emerges that the Brockes interview was a
continuation of the vicious attack on me and the managing editor of the
Swedish magazine Ordfront, Björn Ecklund, following his long article in the
July/August 2003 issue on "lies about Yugoslavia" which featured an
interview with me and excerpts from my book, "Fools' Crusade".
The first shots in that assault were fired by Maciej Zaremba, an ex-Maoist
of Polish origin turned ideological watchdog, in a flailing article
published by Sweden's leading mainstream daily, Dagens Nyeter. Zaremba's
sloppy attack (he admittedly never read my book, and seems not even to have
read the Ordfront piece carefully) was thereupon echoed by mainstream
Swedish media, in a campaign absurdly called a "debate", although replies
from those being attacked (myself and others) were excluded. Among the
uncorrected lies was the statement that I was a "pillar of LM", a magazine
with which I have never had the slightest contact.
This shameful campaign was used to bring to heel Ordfront, which until then
had been the most important left-oriented alternative to Sweden's
mainstream press. It is an amazing story, excellently recounted by Al
Burke, a (formerly U.S.) Swedish citizen who is well-acquainted with the
Ordfront scandal and its broader political context. His document, "All
Quieted on the Word Front", deserves to be read carefully by all who are
concerned by the growing threats to freedom of political expression in the
democratic West. See
For starters, there is an introduction on Al Burke's web
Unfortunately Burkes introduction to this very important struggle cannot
really convey the magnitude of what took place, which can only be described
as a full-tilt attack on democracy and the left. By the same token, the
linked pdf document is about the size of a book, so I am not sure how many
Counterpunch readers took the trouble to plow through it, especially since
much of it is taken up with internecine struggles on the Swedish left. It
is almost like inviting people in Sweden to read 150 pages on the Pacifica
struggle of a couple of years ago.
Since I have committed a fair amount of time and energy in debate with
people like Michael Bérubé on the liberal left and the Australian DSP on
the extreme left over such issues, I decided to read the entire pdf and
prepare a summary of the issues. Put succinctly, the article reveals that
the Guardian/George Soros/Hitchens crusade on Yugoslavia meshed neatly with
a crusade against Swedish radicalism but focused on Yugoslavia. A degraded
social democracy intervened in a radical magazines internal struggle in
order to make imperialist intervention more acceptable to Swedish society.
And all this grew out of Ordfronts decision to interview Diana Johnstone!
Subscription to Ordfront makes you a member so people feel that they have a
stake in what appears in its pages, just as Pacifica donors do about what
goes out on the air waves. Politically, the magazine is a few degrees to
the left of the Nation and had a circulation of 30,000 in 2004. A
comparable circulation this size in the USA would number about just under
one million so you can see that it is not marginal. Al Burke thought that
it played a role in voters rejecting the European Monetary Union. Ordfront
also has a publishing house and an educational network.
In the summer of 2003, Ordfront ran an interview with Diana Johnstone which
focused on her Fools Crusade. A month or so later, Dagens Nyheter, the
NY Times of Sweden, opened up a full-scale assault on the magazine for
having the temerity to interview Johnstone, which in their eyes was
tantamount to interviewing David Irving. Leading the attack was one Maciej
Zaremba, a transplanted Pole and fan of US foreign policy who once called
Ben Linder, the martyred Nicaragua volunteer, an odd duck and nothing else.
When Zaremba was interviewed on Swedish public radio some time later, he
confessed to not having read Fools Crusade. He also stated that Ordfront
did not have the right to give her a hearing because freedom of expression
which is used to confuse us contradicts the purpose of freedom of
expression. Despite his anti-Communism, one imagines that Zaremba learned
a few tricks from a Stalinist hack like the former dictator of Poland
Edward Gierek. Eventually Zarembas crusade was joined by Gellert Tamas, an
Ordfront author and, as Burke puts it, a charter member of the bombing left.
The pressure mounted by Dagens Nyheter eventually forced the editorial
board of Ordfront to cave in and they published a mea culpa open letter
in that newspaper that charged Diana Johnstone with holocaust denial.
Dagens Nyheter refused to publish rebuttals by Johnstone, Edward Herman and
Noam Chomsky, which do however appear in the pdf. Eventually Björn Eklund,
who had interviewed Johnstone, was fired. His reply to the charges against
him were not published in the magazine. He had become an unperson.
After Eklunds departure, the magazine deepened its support for NATOs war
in Yugoslavia using the sort of arguments found in Dissent Magazine.
Imagine Paul Berman as editor of the Nation Magazine and youll get the
picture of what was going on.
The assault on Diana Johnstone eventually spilled over into Swedens public
television and radio. A kind of thought police mentality overcame social
democratic opinion. Anybody who questioned the party line on Yugoslavia
became another David Irving.
Outraged Ordfront subscribers came to the 2004 annual meeting with a
determination to reorient the magazine away from Serb-bashing and to
restore free speech. In the past 30 to 40 people would show up. This year
200 did! By a sizable margin, the body approved a motion that stated, It
is the opinion of the annual meeting that it was wrong to repudiate
publication of the interview with Diana Johnstone. In keeping with the
organizations stated purpose, the board should instead have defended the
provision of a public space for critical debate on controversial issues.
They also repudiated the firing of Björn Eklund.
The next day Ordfront editor Christina Hagner, a bombing leftist, took to
the pages of Dagens Nyheter to denounce the unruly mob that insisted on
democracy at the annual meeting, which she characterized as being
completely out of control. She eventually brought in a professor of
*commercial law* from the Swedish equivalent of the Harvard Business School
to render a negative judgment on the pro-democracy faction that had shown
up at the annual meeting. Eventually Hagner and her supporters managed to
purge Ordfronts board of directors and staff of anybody who was
outspokenly to the left of Marc Cooper. Those who did have such politics,
but who lacked the stomach for a fight, were silenced into submission.
For me the biggest revelation in Al Burkes article was the degree to which
Sweden has moved inexorably to the right, just as its economy has slid into
neoliberalism--all under the watch of successive social democratic
administrations. This is no longer the country of Prime Minister Olof
Palme, who referred to Nixons bombing as torture of the Vietnamese
people and linked it to Lidice, Guernica and Babi Yar.
Swedens current prime minister is one Göran Persson, a pragmatic social
democrat who despite criticisms of the war on terror has seen fit to allow
U.S. agents onto Swedish soil, where they hauled off two political-asylum
seekers and sent them to Egypt where they were tortured.
It is also of some note that some of the most outspoken bombing leftist
members of the Ordfront board and staff were, as Burke puts it, reformed
veterans of the lunatic Left of the 1960s and 70s. (I myself prefer to
remain an unrepentant Marxist, even if people like Marc Cooper or Leo Casey
think that I am a 60s style lunatic.) His following words seem most apt in
describing the repentant nature of such people.
The theory is that, having in middle-age joined polite society, they have
been battling with their inner demons from the past by projecting them in
some strange and destructive way upon the democratic majority which dared
to challenge their embrace of USA/NATO propaganda, their submission to the
mainstream press, etc. That explanation may appear a bit weird; but it is
certainly no weirder than the behavior in question.
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