One journal that doesn't think much of my book at all is Spiked. This is a new one to me, but it was set up by the same people responsible for the now-defunct LM magazine (formerly Living Marxism). On domestic policy, the people behind LM and Spiked represent, in Nick Cohen's words, the decanting of the old soundbites of the right into new bottles. On foreign affairs, they are described by Ed Vulliamy in The Guardian as responsible for "vile deceit" in their libel of ITN journalists covering the Bosnian war:
Living Marxism's attempts to re-write the history of the camps was motivated by the fact that in their heart of hearts, these people applauded those camps and sympathised with their cause and wished to see it triumph. That was the central and - in the final hour, the only - issue. Shame, then, on those fools, supporters of the pogrom, cynics and dilettantes who supported them, gave them credence and endorsed their vile enterprise.
Spiked's reviewer, James Heartfield, comments that my "college debating style, lively enough by the page, is quite incoherent overall". I am "disingenuous" and "shrill", with a "snidey blogging style". I "over and again cut [my] cloth to suit practical realities today" and "assume the pompous officialese of the barrack-room lawyer". And so on.
This is all standard fare, but for reasons I indicate below, I thought it was worth taking up certain characteristics of this article with the magazine. This is my letter for publication:
Dear Sir or Madam,
Knowing your predecessor-magazine's conduct during the Bosnian war, I should have wondered what I'd said wrong in my book Anti-Totalitarianism if you'd had cause to praise it. As it is, you've suprised me for quite another reason. James Heartfield is gratifyingly contemptuous of my arguments for humanitarian intervention - except that they aren't my arguments at all. Was the book really so anodyne that, in order to dismiss it, Heartfield had to manufacture things that I haven't written? Charles Krauthammer recently described the argument of a realist critic as so extravagant a caricature of the neoconservative position on foreign policy that it ought to have been illustrated with cartoons. That expository device would be unavailable to Heartfield, whose review lacks even the kernel of truth that effective caricature embellishes.
Perhaps I could provide for your readers a summary of the thesis that Heartfield declines to divulge. My aim in the book is to defend the Blair-Bush strategy of promoting global democracy, trace its antecedents in left-wing debates about foreign policy, and identify the distinctive contribution that progressives can make to an internationalist coalition. Heartfield maintains that the case for liberal interventionism founders on "all the repulsive details of waging war". Understandably, given that his argument has so obvious and comprehensive a historical refutation (but let us return to Bosnia later), he quickly resorts to the non sequitur of disputing my leftist credentials. He is so determined on this conclusion (and, given the paucity of his other material, tied to it), that he flagrantly misrepresents my argument in order to derive it.
Most shameless is Heartfield's attributing to me a literally Orwellian design for civil liberty and due process. He quotes me: "The inevitable abridgements of liberty that a military campaign requires are not sufficiently well-designed to allow us to maintain for long the appearance - and reality - of fairness and due process." By removing the context, Heartfield presents me as arguing that the western democracies must renounce fairness and due process in order to mount a successful military campaign. My argument is the exact - the exact - opposite: because a military campaign curtails liberties, it is essential that democratic states respect legal precepts. I lament the effect of a military campaign on the rule of law, and urge democratic states to take remedial action. Only an incompetent or dishonest reviewer would have failed to spot that this section of the book is entitled "The importance of legal precepts". In it I argue that "a sovereign democratic state ... must have a regard for due process and the rule of law"; identify "the most grievous failing of the Bush administration in its foreign policy" as "an indifference to those preconditions of legitimacy"; urge a greater role for NGOs such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch in shaping policy on detainees; and call on the US administration to establish a code of rights for prisoners and provide for judicial review in the cases of terrorist suspects.
This is not an isolated falsehood by Heartfield. When he insists "Kamm cannot resist calling anyone who is not 100 per cent with him an appeaser of fascism", the term "straw man" is hardly adequate to his creativity. Outside my discussion of the 1930s, I say this about nobody at all, in any historical debate, anywhere in the book. In my discussion of the arguments on the Left about nuclear disarmament in the 1980s, I explicitly reject the charge that the peace movement's stance was appeasement. I argue that the modern peace campaigners' counterparts from the 1930s are not the appeasers but the professed advocates of collective security who refused to believe there were greater evils than war. This is also my criticism of the mainstream anti-Iraq-war campaigners (as opposed to the SWP/Respect/Stop the War Coalition, who are not "appeasers" of fascism but outright supporters of it), who trusted to an ineffective and destructive containment policy.
So it goes on. Heartfield depicts me "retreat[ing] from the idea that it is possible to build democratic states" when political reality intrudes. He is characteristically misrepresenting my argument that even if Iraq fails to become a stable democracy, she might still be a state where constitutional principles are established, in contrast to the abattoir-regime of Saddam Hussein. I go on to say that there are grounds for being more ambitious than that, and that "there is a pragmatic [i.e. it works, and isn't just a nice idea] case for making the spread of democracy the central goal of foreign policy".
In a surreal coda, Heartfield accuses me of "veering off into a historical defence of.the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco". His only citation for this preposterous assertion is my description of Franco's tyranny as being of regionally circumscribed significance, in contrast to the expansionism of Stalin's foreign policy (of which the shattered Republican cause - shattered by the Soviet Union, that is - became an arm after 1937). Heartfield is plainly unaware of this, but the irrelevance of Franco to European fascist advance is a common judgement in the historical literature. (See, e.g., Stanley Payne's The Franco Regime, 1936-1975, 1987: "despite Franco's uncertain prospects after Allied victory... the likelihood [is] that his future would have been more bleak had Hitler actually won. The Generalissimo's persistent tacking, delays, and dissimulation had eventually so infuriated Hitler that, according to Albert Speer, he swore to get even with Franco by using his domestic enemies to overthrow him." As Heartfield is dismissive of the evidence of the Soviet archives, he should note the consistent message of the German ones. A.J.P. Taylor recorded in "Spain and the Axis", in Rumours of War, 1952: "The third volume of documents from the archives of the German Foreign Ministry ... contains little evidence of a Fascist conspiracy and none at all of British or French connivance in it.") But more fundamental, Heartfield makes a grossly illegitimate inference that "as Kamm means it, [Franco was] the lesser evil". That does not follow at all, and is not my view. Let me try to explain the point to Heartfield with an analogy. I thought at the time, and still do, that apartheid South Africa was a greater evil in the 1970s than Cuban-backed Angola or Mozambique. The fact that apartheid was a system peculiar to South Africa while Communism was an expansionist ideology was irrelevant to the case.
While the unscholarly, ignorant and mendacious character of Heartfield's piece is demonstrable, identifying the influences behind it is a more speculative task. But as Heartfield has no compunction about claiming to know "the formative event in Kamm's thinking", I'll have a go at pop psychology myself. As Heartfield notes, I played a small role in the victory of Martin Bell in Tatton in the 1997 general election. I'm glad to have done so, not only out of loyalty to and admiration for the man, but also because he was an early and important voice in urging humanitarian intervention to stop Serb aggression against Bosnia's multi-ethnic democracy. The predecessor-magazine of Spiked took, of course, a distinctively different stance on the Bosnian war: it libelled honest reporters who told the truth about Serb atrocities in Bosnia. I suspect it was this issue that caused LM magazine, entertainingly and unavailingly, to endorse Martin's opponent in Tatton, the disgraced former minister Neil Hamilton, and that even now it remains, to coin a phrase, the formative event in Heartfield's thinking. Whatever the truth of this, I tried to make contact with Mr Hamilton as soon as LM's endorsement was published in order to give him some well-intentioned advice. It ran: "Mr Hamilton, do not allow your name and reputation to be exploited by those whose standards of veracity and integrity fall so far short of your own."
I hope he took it, and has stuck to it.