Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Shiraz Stalinist


‘Movements for human rights across the planet should inspire us. We, the left, should be at their forefront. That instruments like the International Court of Justice, or the present Tribunal on Yugoslavia, are flawed, may be the case. But our role should be to improve them, to build a society where justice and rights are real. Not to dismiss them because their claims to universality are blemished.  Or still worse, to run with the twisted apologists for nationalist murder and the ‘anti-imperialists’ who deny the very possibility of universal rights and freedoms.’

So wrote Andrew Coates at Shiraz Socialist last year, and I agree with every word. Yet I can hardly believe the sheer hypocrisy and chutzpah.

During the war in Bosnia, Coates was outspoken in his praise of the ‘apologists for nationalist murder’ and the ‘anti-imperialists’. In August 1992, Living Marxism magazine published a letter by Coates, in which he said:

‘Three cheers for Living Marxism‘s courageous stand on Serbia. At last some proletarian internationalism has seen its way into print.’

He went on to complain that in the Western ‘official media’, a ‘totally distorted picture of the Yugoslavian conflict has been presented’.

Living Marxism, for those who don’t remember, was a publication whose principal activity during the Bosnian war was to deny that Serb atrocities were taking place, and to claim that they were ‘fabricated’ by the Western media. Living Marxism denied that ethnic cleansing or genocide was occurring, denied that Serb forces were running concentration camps or rape camps in Bosnia and denied the Srebrenica massacre. It blamed Germany for engineering the break-up of Yugoslavia and claimed the Croats were an ‘invented nation’. In 1993, Living Marxism promoted a Serbian-government-funded Belgrade exhibition, which claimed that it was the Serbs who were the victims of genocide in Bosnia. In 1997, it sympathetically interviewed Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, allowing his statements to go unchallenged. Living Marxism went on to deny the Rwandan genocide as well.

Coates’s letter to Living Marxism was published at around the time when the existence of Serb concentration camps in Bosnia was discovered by the Western media. It is as if, at the height of the Holocaust, someone had written a letter to Der Stuermer, praising its ‘courageous stand on Germany’ and its ‘proletarian internationalism’.

Not only did Coates praise the supporters of Serb fascism, but he demonised those who opposed it. His letter to Living Marxism was also an attack on my parents, Branka Magas and Quintin Hoare, who were prominent campaigners against the genocide and aggression in Bosnia. Coates described them as an ‘unsavoury pair’ guilty of ‘demonising the Serbs’ and ‘crude racism’. He didn’t produce any evidence to support these accusations, which were sheer libel. Subsequently, under the threat of legal action, Living Marxism was forced to publish an apology to Quintin and Branka and to retract the accusation of racism.

Today, Coates appears to want to rewrite his personal political history, and pretend his stance on Bosnia during the war was less shameful than it actually was. Last year, he wrote:

 ‘For the record I defended the Yugoslav Federal state,against the break-up when it began. I suppose it’s because I had some residual sympathy for Tiitoism and a very much alive Austro-Marxist vision of federated nationalities. I would deeply resent if that position – which was not that rare – were conflated with any liking for Milosovic etc. Indeed as readers of the old Red Pepper site will know myself , and others, such as John Palmer, stopped posting there when it got flooded with neo-Stalinist cack disputing the atrocities carried out under Karadzic’s regime.’ [all typos in original]

Of course, abandoning a position as shameful as the one that Coates once held is to be welcomed. And to be sufficiently embarrassed about the former position to want to keep it under wraps, while pretending one actually had a different position, is entirely understandable.

Unfortunately, while now claiming to oppose Serb war-crimes and to have always done so, Coates has not ceased to make periodic defamatory attacks on me and my family, of which the most recent is this one. Never having raised a finger to oppose the genocide and aggression that were taking place in Bosnia in the 1990s, he continues to defame those who did, while now pretending to have been one of the good guys all along !

Andrew Coates is a liar and a hypocrite.

Update: Phil Edwards of The Gaping Silence, who knew Coates personally at the time of the war in the former Yugoslavia, has this to say about him: ‘he backed Milosevic more or less from the off, and (I can hear the hackles rising from here) in this case I really do mean he backed Milosevic; during the siege of Vukovar he said we should look forward to the day when the red star of Yugoslavia flew over Zagreb.’

Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - Posted by | Red-Brown Alliance, The Left | , , ,

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: