Living Marxism denied Omarska

And now that we’ve revisited Vulliamy’s and ITN’s visit to Omarska, let’s revisit their libel suit against Living Marxism for saying it was all a fabrication. Ed Vulliamy again:

Some will say that Living Marxism won the “public relations battle”, whatever that is. Others will cling to the puerile melodrama that ITN’s victory in the high court yesterday was that of Goliath over some plucky little David who only wanted to challenge the media establishment.

But history – the history of genocide in particular – is thankfully built not upon public relations or melodrama but upon truth; if necessary, truth established by law. And history will record this: that ITN reported the truth when, in August 1992, it revealed the gulag of horrific concentration camps run by the Serbs for their Muslim and Croatian quarry in Bosnia.

The law now records that Penny Marshall and Ian Williams (and myself, for that matter) did not lie but told the truth when they exposed this crime to the world, and that the lie was that of Living Marxism and its dilettante supporters who sought, in the time-honoured traditions of revisionism, to deny those camps existed.

Of course Living Marxism was unable to offer a single witness who had been at Trnopolje, the camp they claimed to be a fake, on that putrid afternoon of August 5, 1992. Indeed, they were unable to produce any witnesses at all. Unlike any member of Living Marxism or their sympathisers, I was there with ITN’s cameras that day. We went to two camps: Omarska and Trnopolje.

Living Marxism. Remember them? They’re still around, under new names – spiked and the Institute of Ideas, for two.

When ITN sued in pursuit of these aims, the company of course ran the risk that such action would draw attention to LM’s revisionism. But no one could have predicted the degree to which, rather than be dismissed as a foul revisionist trick, Living Marxism’s claims would become a matter for voguish tittle-tattle among bored intellectuals on the sofas of the Groucho Club.

LM played its hand well but the rot in the British intelligentsia made it easy for them to do so. LM succeeded in entwining the two issues of the libel writ and denial of the camps. Some of their supporters argued that they accepted the truth of the genocide but nevertheless felt compelled by ITN’s supposedly heavy-handed use of the libel laws to speak out in favour of those who denied the carnage. But such distinctions were utterly unconvincing. Those who helped LM cannot fail to recognise that by doing so they also stirred the poison LM had dropped into the well of history, playing their own role in denying a genocide.

By this entwinement, genocide was devalued into a “media debate”, something to chitter-chatter about over grilled sea bass and pale Belgian beer.

Hungry for controversy, a sizeable portion of London’s intelligentsia lined up to support Living Marxism. They rallied round those who had named me and others as liars in the name of free speech – so why not name them too, the great, the good and the up-and-coming? Fay Weldon, Doris Lessing, Harold Evans, Toby Young, and even a handful of contributors to this newspaper. A diverse coterie, eager to sip Living Marxism’s apparently excellent claret at the ICA, to eat their canapés and run alongside the rotten bandwagon of revisionism.

And they’re still flourishing, still passing around the claret.

As is by now well-known, Living Marxism has become adept at finding or placing supporters in what it regards as influential positions in the media. This is all perfectly above board: the Times was desperate enough to offer LM’s editor, Mick Hume, his own column. The signatories of LM’s letters are familiar bylines across Fleet Street.

And they still are. Brendan O’Neill is one. See note 19 in a 2009 piece by George Monbiot:

19. In 2000, Brendan O’Neill sent out a mass email with the following content: “The people who brought you LM magazine will be back in late 2000 with a new online publication called spiked.”

Genocide-deniers as media stars. It’s a strange world we live in.



  1. Nick Gotts says

    As Monbiot notes, the formerly-LM crew are avid climate-change denialists, and worshippers of the “free market”. In these respects, they are typical “libertarians” (interestingly John Laughland, another British libertarian who is on the academic board of Ron Pau’s Institute for Peace and Prosperity, was also a defender of Milosevic). The question is, whether they shifted from revolutionary Marxism to market-worship because they saw who was winning the class war, or whether they were always a “false flag” operation. That might sound like conspiracist paranoia, but it was always difficult to explain where a tiny group of Trotskyists (the “Revolutionary Communist Party”) got the money to produce a very glossy magazine; and recently emerging facts about the extent to which the British “Special Branch” of the police infiltrated anti-establishment groups (see Undercover: the True Story of Britain’s Secret Police by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis – some of their agents conducted long-term relationships with women activists and even had children by them) make it difficult to rule out anything as too far-fetched in this area.

  2. RJW says

    “Genocide deniers as media stars”
    That has a long history, during the 1930s, various Western ‘intellectuals’ visited Stalin’s Soviet Union and returned with favorable reports, then in the 1950s Mao’s China was the best hope for humanity. Even the Pol Pot regime had supporters in the intelligentsia.

  3. chrislawson says

    Nick@1: I’m not usually a fan of false flag accusations because they run uncomfortably close to conspiracism (which is not to say they can’t be true, but I like to see an awful lot of solid evidence before I’d accept them). But in the case of O’Neill and the spiked crew, their opinions are so toxic, pseudorational, and hypocritical that such false flag accusations are, relatively speaking, somewhat complimentary.

  4. Intaglio says

    When I was young and in my prime I was fairly active in a union in the UK. The general opinion of the radicals was that “come the revolution” the Champagne Socialists and Caviare Marxists would be the first to be put against the wall.

  5. Al Dente says

    Monbiot, writing about the libel suit ITN brought against LM, said:

    His may be less of the great liberal cause that his supporters would like to believe. For the closer one looks at LM, the weaker its link to the oppressed appears, and the stronger its links to the oppressor. It has, in other words, less in common with the left than with the fanatical right.

  6. says

    I wasn’t aware of them until well after they’d made the turn to spiked & the rest of the apparatus, so their former Marxism or Trotskyism or whatever is very hard for me to believe in.

    But what’s really hard to understand is why and how they’ve had such success getting big media gigs. You would think they would look like poison to anyone in the mainstream media – former Trotskyists turned libertarians in unison – does that sound like the makings of a good journalist to you?

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