Living Marxism

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Living Marxism was a British magazine, originally launched in 1988 as the journal of the British Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). It was later rebranded as LM and ceased publication in March 2000 following a successful libel lawsuit brought by the British Independent Television News (ITN).[1][2]

It was promptly resurrected as Spiked, an Internet magazine.

Living Marxism's Aims[edit]

Living Marxism's introduction summarised its outlook as:

We live in an age of caution and conformism, when critical opinions can be outlawed as 'extremism' and anything new can be rubbished as 'too risky'. Ours is an age of low expectations, when we are always being told what is bad for us, and life seems limited on all sides by restrictions, guidelines and regulations.

The spirit of LM is to go against the grain: to oppose all censorship, bans and codes of conduct; to stand up for social and scientific experimentation; to insist that we have the right to live as autonomous adults who take responsibility for our own affairs. These are basic human values that cannot be compromised if we are ever going to create a world fit for people.[3]

Views[edit]

Views expounded with regularity in LM included 'Fear Culture', for example by questioning the then media coverage of AIDS as a predominantly homosexual disease in the West. Its critique covered media coverage in Africa and the developing world in the context of Western intervention, underdevelopment and poverty. It also debated environmentalist claims that limiting consumption was a progressive view. The magazine also raised concerns about the Left's rejection of scientific thought and critique, especially of medicine, biotechnology and nuclear physics. LM writers also critiqued the media portrayal of the civil wars in Rwanda and Bosnia by questioning the use of the term "genocide" to describe the conflicts.[4]

It has been stated by environmentalists such as George Monbiot[5] and Peter Melchett that the group of writers associated with LM continue to constitute a 'LM Network' pursuing an ideologically motivated 'anti-environmentalist' agenda under the guise of promoting Humanism.[6][7] Writers who used to write for Living Marxism reject this as a 'McCarthyite' conspiracy theory.[8]

ITN vs. LM[edit]

In the first issue where the journal was renamed LM, editor Mick Hume published an article by German journalist Thomas Deichmann which claimed that Independent Television News (ITN) had misrepresented the Bosnian war in its coverage in 1992. The publishers of LM, Informinc (LM) Ltd., were sued for libel by ITN. The case initially caused international condemnation of ITN, as one of LM's most trenchant critics George Monbiot notes:

Some of the world's leading liberals leapt to the magazine's defence: Harold Evans, Doris Lessing, Paul Theroux, Fay Weldon and many others condemned ITN's "deplorable attack on press freedom". The Institute of Contemporary Arts, bulwark of progressive liberalism, enhanced LM's heroic profile by co-hosting a three-day conference with the magazine, called "Free Speech Wars". With the blessing of the liberal world, this puny iconoclastic David will go to war with the clanking orthodoxies of the multinational Goliath.[9]

However, Monbiot continued:

This, at least, is how LM would like its struggle to be seen. But there is more to this David than first meets the eye. 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.[9]

The article "The picture that fooled the world" argued that ITN's footage, in which an emaciated Bosnian Muslim man stood behind a barbed wire fence, was designed to portray a Nazi-style extermination camp, while Deichmann claimed "It was not a prison, and certainly not a 'concentration camp', but a collection centre for refugees, many of whom went there seeking safety and could leave again if they wished."[10] However, an examination of the substance of this case by a professor of cultural and political geography at Durham University argues that the key claims made by Deichmann and LM are "erroneous and flawed".[11]

The libel case went against LM, and in March 2000 the magazine was forced to close. Reporters Penny Marshall and Ian Williams were each awarded £150,000 over the LM story and the magazine was also ordered to pay £75,000 for libelling ITN in a February 1997 article.[1]

The result produced very mixed reactions as Diana Johnstone comments:

...ITN put LM out of business by winning a libel suit against the magazine. But due to the quaint nature of British libel law, the decisive issue in court was NOT the truth about the wire fence. Rather, it was whether or not the ITN reporters had "deliberately" sought to deceive the public. The issue become one of intentions and emotions. The judge, in his summing up, acknowledged that the ITN team reporters were mistaken as to who was enclosed by the old barbed-wire fence, adding, "but does it matter?" The jury decided it did not.[12]

Johnstone, a historian of European politics, has herself claimed that no genocidal massacre took place at Srebrenica.

In contrast, Professor Campbell of Durham University summarised his study of the case as follows:

"...as strange as existing British libel law is, it had an important and surprisingly beneficial effect in the case of ITN vs LM. The LM defendants and Thomas Deichmann were properly represented at the trial and were able to lay out all the details of their claim that the ITN reporters had "deliberately misrepresented" the situation at Trnopolje. Having charged 'deliberate misrepresentation', they needed to prove 'deliberate misrepresentation'. To this end, the LM defendants were able to cross-examine Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, as well as every member of the ITN crews who were at the camps, along with other witnesses. (That they didn't take up the opportunity to cross-examine the Bosnian doctor imprisoned at Trnopolje, who featured in the ITN stories and was called to testify on the conditions and others suffered, was perhaps the moment any remaining shred of credibility for LM's allegations evaporated). They were able to show the ITN reports to the court, including the rushes from which the final TV stories were edited, and conduct a forensic examination of the visuals they alleged were deceitful. And all of this took place in front of a jury of twelve citizens who they needed to convince about the truthfulness of their allegations.

They failed. The jury found unanimously against LM and awarded the maximum possible damages. So it was not ITN that bankrupted LM. It was LM's lies about the ITN reports that bankrupted themselves, morally and financially. Despite their failure, those who lied about the ITN reports have had no trouble obtaining regular access to the mainstream media in Britain, where they continue to make their case as though the 2000 court verdict simply didn't exist. Their freedom of speech has thus not been permanently infringed.[13]

Looking back Hume commented in The Times:

Would I do it again? We could have got out of the case by apologising, which seems to be the fashionable thing to do. But I believe in the unfashionable freedom to state what you understand to be true, even if it causes offence. I would do almost anything to avoid ever again setting foot in Court 14. But some things really are more important than a mortgage.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "ITN wins Bosnian war libel case". BBC News. 15 March 2000.
  2. ^ Hume, Mick. "The end of LM Magazine. Statement by Mick Hume, Editor". 29 March 2000.
  3. ^ [1][verification needed]
  4. ^ Foster, Fiona (December 1995). "Massacring the truth in Rwanda". Living Marxism. Archived from the original on 21 May 2001. 
  5. ^ Monbiot, George (9 December 2003). "Invasion of the entryists". The Guardian (London).
  6. ^ Melchett, Peter (19 April 2007). "Clear intentions". The Guardian (London).
  7. ^ Profiles: Martin Durkin, LobbyWatch. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
  8. ^ O'Neill, Brendan (25 April 2007). "'Humanising politics—that is my only agenda'". Spiked Online. Retrieved 27 April 2007. 
  9. ^ a b Monbiot, George (1 November 1998). "Far Left or Far Right?". Prospect (London). 
  10. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/19991110185707/www.informinc.co.uk/LM/LM97/LM97_Bosnia.html[verification needed]
  11. ^ http://www.david-campbell.org/photography/atrocity-and-memory/
  12. ^ Cockburn, Alexander (11 May 2005). "Guardian Fabricates Chomsky Quotes in Bid to Smear World's Number One Intellectual". CounterPunch. 
  13. ^ http://www.david-campbell.org/2009/11/14/chomskys-bosnian-shame/
  14. ^ Hume, Mick (7 March 2005). "The day I faced being a £1m bankrupt". The Times (London). Retrieved 14 April 2007. 

Further reading[edit]

General
Press articles
Libel action