I didn’t know much about Nick Cohen before picking up What’s Left? from the Swiss Cottage market book bloke. Here’s what Google told me:
First, Craig Murray:
Let me summarise Nick Cohen’s book for you. ‘If you are against eating Muslim babies, you are a supporter of Islamofascism. If you are perturbed by Guantanamo Bay, you would not have fought in the Spanish Civil War, are probably a fan of Hitler and have no right to call yourself a Liberal. Neo-Conservatism is the New Left.’
There, now you don’t have to read it. Believe me, I have done you a favour.
Or how about Peter Wilby?
Cohen appears to think this book shows he has put infantile leftism behind him and attained a new maturity. Alas, it shows that he is, and always was, a political innocent.
…once Cohen’s blind faith in neoconservatism becomes clear, many of the accusations he makes against the left begin to look like acts of psychological projection rather than serious political arguments.
Here are some examples elaborated in the book which might help you decide whether you want to read it:
- Companies from West Germany supplied Saddam Hussein with “one of the largest chemical weapons manufacturing industries in the world” (p. 47). East German communists provided Saddam’s forces training.
- France built a nuclear reactor for Saddam, which was blown up by the Israeli air force before the nuclear fuel arrived.
- The slow response of Europe, including the then UK Tory government, to Slobodan Milošević, Butcher of the Balkans — leading to the Srebrenica genocide.
- Some evidence that Virginia Woolf might have been a “screaming snob” who hated the working class. Here’s an example, to give you a flavour of his argument, of what she said: “What rather appals me… is the terrible conventionality of the workers. That’s why — if you want explanations — I don’t think they will be poets or novelists for another hundred years or so.”
- A quotation from George Galloway saluting Saddam Hussein: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength and your indefatigability. And I want you to know that we are with you until victory, until victory until Jerusalem.”
- Evidence that the reason for war in Iraq was a lie, Cohen writes: “If Blair had levelled with the British people he would have said that he couldn’t be sure if Saddam was armed, and even if he was there was no imminent danger, but here was a chance to remove a disgusting regime… Instead he spun and talked about chemical weapons…”
I don’t agree with everything in the book, but I am deeply suspicious now of those who think leftish people should avoid it.