It was now nearing 7 o’clock and I had a decision to make: Tariq Ali or Lenin. The latter was, of course, the blogger Richard Seymour, who was here under that name rather than his provocative nom de plume. The primary factor in my opting for the latter was my total lack of cash. No money to obtain tickets meant that opting for the room with spare seats was unquestionably preferable.
In the event Seymour’s room was pretty packed as well, but there was enough space for me not to be acting as a seat robber. I had a whole spiel planned involving mentioning that I was a victim of sub prime and still seeking employment in this crisis stricken economy (both true) but as it happens I turned up slightly late and the man on the door just waved me through.
Seymour was perhaps not how I’d imagined him but that was largely in the voice, which was a soft Irish one I probably should have anticipated more given he’s mentioned his origins on the blog. I was still expecting something a tad more harsh, firm, clipped and firebrand.
As for content, well it was concerning the pro-war left, who are his targets in “The Liberal Defence of Murder” (although interestingly three of his main subjects, Johann Hari, Nick Cohen and the especially despised Christopher Hitchens are all socialists or social democrats of some sort, although Hitchens seems to have shifted into not calling himself anything yet referencing Marx almost as much as before, if not more).
Both in person and in comments Lenin has described himself as “all over the place” structurally; but if this was truth instead of modesty it certainly didn’t show. There was clearly plenty he’d had planned but couldn’t get in, but this was seemingly because he’d done a vast amount of reading and research and it was to the degree that he couldn’t possibly cram it all in. He’d probably intended to say something about Yugoslavia, I suppose, but I never found that topic immensely interesting anyway so I’m rather glad he failed to. Likewise with Ol*ver K*mm.
As it was he managed to fill forty five minutes and then additional response time with a pleasingly fact dense speech that outlined the nature, power, motivations, methods and follies of the pro-war left. The talk traced how liberal interventionists of the contemporary era had directly borrowed from the colonial tradition (both of the far-right and of thinkers such as Mill and Tocqueville, not to mentioned the much-loathed Reformist Marxist Bernstein) and were now using rhetoric barely adapted from the times when you could get away with phrases such as “Adult race”.
Inbetween these two book-ends there was a discussion point where a surprisingly large number of audience members (including myself) were coaxed on stage to give views or ask questions. This felt pleasingly participative and it’s certainly a tradition I’m glad shows no signs of being abandoned.
He is right about my soft Irish voice. There is a brief video of myself answering questions at the talk here. I will be posting on the event later, which I think has gone brilliantly (except for the, er, poet who gave an impromptu reading at yesterday's meeting on The Politics of Islamism and then left in a huff), and particularly on the meeting about what went wrong in Italy. There was also a very talk meeting by a lissom young humorist/economist named Jacob Middleton on 'theories of neoliberalism' which brought to light the founding ideas of the 'neoliberal' revolution, particularly those of Hayek and Friedman. In a truly lapidary fashion, he described Hayek's 'The Constitution of Liberty' as "the Communist Manifesto for complete arseholes". I was surprised to see it so packed at 10am on a Saturday morning, but it just goes to show how important the topic is given our current dilemma. Hossam el-Hamalawy has posted his speech at the opening rally here. Anyway, more later, and I will also be fulfilling a comments box request for a post in Sierra Leone.