Richard Seymour (writer)

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Richard Seymour
Richard Seymour (writer).JPG
Born1977 (age 42–43)
Ballymena, Northern Ireland
OccupationWriter, political theorist

Richard Seymour (born 1977) is a Northern Irish Marxist writer and broadcaster, activist, and owner of the blog Lenin's Tomb. He is the author of books such as The Meaning of David Cameron (2010), Unhitched (2013), Against Austerity (2014) and Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics (2016). Seymour was born in Ballymena, Northern Ireland to a Protestant family,[1] and currently lives in London. A former member of the Socialist Workers Party,[2] he left the organisation in March 2013. He completed his PhD in sociology at the London School of Economics under the supervision of Paul Gilroy.[3] In the past he has written for publications such as The Guardian and Jacobin.


Lenin's Tomb blog and other outlets[edit]

The blog Lenin's Tomb began in June 2003[4] and was listed in 2005 as the 21st-most-popular blog in the United Kingdom.[5] Although run by Seymour, it also has front-page posts from other contributors, including, occasionally, China Miéville.[6] It has been cited by the BBC,[7][8] The Guardian, Private Eye, and Slate magazine.[9] Seymour writes about "issues such as imperialism, Zionism, Islamophobia and anti-capitalism, and covers strikes and protests with footage, images and reportage".

Beginning in January 2013, Seymour focused his blog on an internal crisis involving allegations of rape committed by a (now former) member of the SWP's central committee, and accepted guest entries from other party members criticising the party leadership's response.[10] He announced his resignation from the SWP on 11 March,[11][12] and began using the original blog to convey a more thorough account of the party's crisis than hitherto.[13] Writing in The Guardian, Seymour responded to an article by Julie Sherry,[14] a central committee member: "We will take no lessons from the Daily Mail, Sherry says. How right she is. With a record like this, who needs lessons from the Daily Mail?"[15]

Apart from The Guardian,[16] Seymour has written for the London Review of Books, ABC Australia, Al Jazeera, In These Times and other publications.[17][18][19][20] Since September 2014, he has recorded a regular segment for TeleSur English programme, The World Today with Tariq Ali.[21]

The Liberal Defence of Murder[edit]

A review by the journalist Gary Younge of Seymour's 2008 book, The Liberal Defence of Murder, which was featured on the book's cover, describes Seymour as "expertly" tracing the descent of liberal supporters of war "from humanitarian intervention to blatant islamophobia". China Miéville praised the book as an "indispensable" guide to the "pre-history and modern reality of the so-called 'pro-war Left'". Owen Hatherley, writing in the New Statesman, praised the book as "a freshly written, heavily footnoted and clearly obsessively researched history of 400 years of the 'decent left'".[22] An Independent on Sunday review described it as "an excellent antidote to the propagandists of the crisis of our times", and a later review in The Independent by the policy director of Save the Children described the book as "timely, provocative and thought-provoking".[23]

A review in The Times praised the book as a "powerful counter-blast against the monstrous regiment of 'useful idiots'" who have "contributed in recent decades to the murderous mess of modern times".[24] On the other hand, columnist Oliver Kamm, writing for his Times blog, disputed the review, accusing Seymour of historiographical distortions.[25] Seymour posted a lengthy reply to Kamm's criticisms on his own blog.[26]

A critical review in The Guardian by Philippe Sands contended that despite the book's "damning material" on the supporters of war, this "potentially important book" was weakened by "the generality" of its conclusions and the failure to concede that there are instances where the use of force is justified.[27] Seymour also responded to this critique on his blog. An enthusiastic review appeared in Resurgence magazine in March 2010, declaiming that: "Richard Seymour's obsessively researched, impressive first book holds its place as the most authoritative historical analysis of its kind".[28] A scholarly review in the Journal of American Studies commended the book's "truly impressive breadth and depth", arguing that it provided "a new European perspective – and a warning – on the left's pragmatic and ultimately shortsighted support for imperialist adventures".[29]

Computer programmer and Internet activist Aaron Swartz praised the book unreservedly in his 2009 review of books: "This book is like a little miracle. I’m not even sure how to describe it, except to say that it turns one’s understanding of history completely upside-down." [30]

A later interview on the literary website, ReadySteadyBook, discussed Seymour's motivations in writing the book, and his responses to critics. He explained that: "The shape the book eventually took, as a genealogy of liberal imperialism, was prompted by the combat clerisy themselves. They were the ones appealing to the legacy of 19th Century liberal imperialism. They were the ones vaunting a kitschy manifest-destinarianism, as well as a muscular determination to visit vengeance on the barbarians. It was they who culled their catchphrases from a disgraced imperial lexicon. Unless I wanted to write a gossipy, huffy polemic in the manner of Nick Cohen's What's Left, I had no choice but to anatomise these discursive strategies from their origins to the present day."[31]

Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens[edit]

Unhitched, published in 2013, focuses on Christopher Hitchens's work on religion, his engagement with British politics and his alleged embrace of American imperialism.[32] Seymour has said of Unhitched, "It is written in the spirit of a trial ... I do attempt to get a sense of the complexity and gifts of the man, but it is very clearly a prosecution, and you can guess my conclusion."[33]

Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics[edit]

Corbyn, published in 2016, with a second edition published in 2017, is an analysis of Jeremy Corbyn's rise to the leadership of the Labour Party. It has been positively reviewed. Stephen Bush in the New Statesman dubbed it "the finest study of Corbyn yet written".[34] Robert Potts in The Times Literary Supplement described it as "witty and acute political and historical analysis from a position to the left of Corbyn" and "utterly unsentimental" in its analysis.[35] Liam Young in the New Statesman praised it as a "hard-hitting and realistic look at what lies ahead".[36] A Foreign Affairs review characterised it as "essential reading", "by turns inspiring and implausible".[37] It was named among Times Higher Education's books of 2016, and The Observer's '100 best political books'.[38][39]

Controversial assertions[edit]

On 2 September 2015, in a private Facebook comment on a Daily Telegraph column detailing Falklands War veteran and serious burns victim Simon Weston's remarks regarding then Labour Party Leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn's plan, Weston believes, to "surrender" the Falkland Islands to Argentina, Seymour wrote: "If he knew anything, he'd still have his face".[40]

Under a shared Facebook post, Seymour commented on a video of an Israeli: "He makes me sick. He's a piece of shit. He's standing there complaining that the army isn't helping the colonists keep the Palestinians in their place. Fuck him, they should cut his throat."[41] Tom Peck of The Independent wrote that the Israeli was a "Jewish journalist",[dubious ][40][42] whereas Seymour questioned the "journalist" claim and wrote "he turns out to be a settler and hasbara activist, who runs an American-Israeli PR firm".[41][43]

Seymour was a speaker at a September 2016 event in Liverpool organised by the Momentum group which coincided with the Labour Party's conference in the city. Katie Green, chair of the campaign of Jeremy Corbyn's unsuccessful challenger, Owen Smith in the 2016 Labour leadership election, was quoted by The Independent over Seymour's comments: "These kind of violent and deeply offensive remarks make a mockery of Jeremy's 'kinder, gentler politics.' Jeremy should be condemning his comments".[42]

Seymour wrote a lengthy post in response, as well as a more concise apology.[41][44] Part of the apology read:

"To be absolutely clear. I do not think that Simon Weston’s injuries deserve ridicule. I emphatically do not think that people who advocate for the West Bank settlers should have their throats cut. I certainly didn’t mention or even consider the ethnicity of the individual in question, and the attempts to imply that this was a factor in the original statement are invidious and dishonest. I at no point sought a public audience for these comments, and never sought to solicit anyone’s anguish. I am, of course, very sorry to anyone who was hurt." [44]

Published works[edit]

  • 2008 The Liberal Defence of Murder. ISBN 978-1-84467-240-0, Verso Books.[9]
  • 2008 "The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens", in Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq and the Left. ISBN 0-8147-1687-3, New York University Press.[45]
  • 2009 "John Spargo and American Socialism", in Historical Materialism, 17: 2, 2009, pp. 272–285(14).[46]
  • 2010 "The War on Terror as Political Violence", in Marie Breen Smyth, ed., The Ashgate Research Companion to Political Violence, 2010[47]
  • 2010 The Meaning of David Cameron. ISBN 978-1-84694-456-7, Zero Books, 2010
  • 2011 American Insurgents: A Short History of American Anti-Imperialism. ISBN 978-1-60846-141-7, Haymarket Books.[48]
  • 2012 Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens. ISBN 978-1-84467-990-4, Verso Books.[49]
  • 2014 Against Austerity. ISBN 9780745333281, Pluto Press, London
  • 2014 "Race and the Cold War", in Alexander Anievas, Nivi Manchanda, Robbie Shilliam, eds., Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line, 2014[50]
  • 2016 Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics. ISBN 978-1784785314, Verso Books, 2016
  • 2019 The Twittering Machine. ISBN 9781999683382, Indigo Press, London


  1. ^ Richard Seymour « Interview « ReadySteadyBook – for literature. Retrieved on 21 September 2012.
  2. ^ Seymour, Richard (1 January 2004). "About Lenin's Tomb". Lenin's Tomb. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  3. ^ Richard Seymour | London School of Economics – Retrieved on 21 September 2012.
  4. ^ "Links: Blogs". Mediabite: A shot at bias in the media. 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  5. ^ "Top Ten, Saturday 26 February 2005". BritishBlogs. 26 February 2005. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  6. ^ Miéville, China (29 August 2005). "The politics of weather". Lenin's Tomb. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  7. ^ "As it happened: Mumbai attacks 27 Nov". BBC News. BBC. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
  8. ^ Connor, Alan (4 July 2005). "Music blogs close ears to Live 8". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  9. ^ a b "The Liberal Defence of Murder (review)". Verso Books. Archived from the original on 18 February 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  10. ^ Paul Kellogg "Britain: Reflections on the crisis in the Socialist Workers Party", LINKS – Journal of International Socialist Renewal, 13 January 2013
  11. ^ "Resigning from the Socialist Workers Party", International Socialism, 11 March 2013
  12. ^ Richard Seymour "On resigning from the SWP", Lenin's Tomb, 12 March 2013
  13. ^ 'Lenin' (Richard Seymour) "The crisis in the SWP: part I", Lenin's Tomb, 12 March 2013
  14. ^ Julie Sherry "Challenging sexism is at the heart of the SWP's work", The Guardian, 21 March 2013
  15. ^ Richard Seymour "The SWP leadership has turned the party into a sinking ship",, 22 March 2013
  16. ^ Richard Seymour. The Guardian. Retrieved on 21 September 2012.
  17. ^ LENIN'S TOMB: Oh, by the way. (16 September 2010). Retrieved on 21 September 2012.
  18. ^ Richard Seymour – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved on 21 September 2012.
  19. ^ Gore Vidal remembered: 'Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little' – Opinion. Al Jazeera English (4 August 2012). Retrieved on 21 September 2012.
  20. ^ Richard Seymour – Profile. In These Times. Retrieved on 21 September 2012.
  21. ^ "Missouri, goddam". Lenin's Tomb. Retrieved on 22 April 2015.
  22. ^ Hatherley, Owen (11 December 2008). "Persistent empire". New Statesman. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  23. ^ Renton, David (25 January 2009). "The Liberal Defence of Murder, by Richard Seymour (review)". The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  24. ^ Finlayson, Iain (24 January 2009). "Non-fiction reviews". The Times.
  25. ^ Kamm, Oliver (11 December 2008). "More valuable as history than as polemic". TimesOnline: Blogs. Archived from the original on 14 December 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  26. ^ Seymour, Richard (11 December 2008). "Kamm reviews". Lenin's Tomb. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  27. ^ Sands, Philippe (21 February 2009). "War – What is it Good For?". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
  28. ^ Koek, Ariane (21 February 2009). "The Moralisation of Violence". Resurgence. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  29. ^ Ryan, Maria (2010). "Intellectuals and the "War on Terror"". Journal of American Studies. Cambridge Journals. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  30. ^ Swartz, Aaron (3 January 2010). "2009 Review of Books". Aaron Swartz – Raw Thought. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  31. ^ "Interview with Richard Seymour". ReadySteadyBook. ReadySteadyBook. 30 June 2009. Retrieved 30 June 2009.
  32. ^ Shupak, Gregory (17 January 2013). "Christopher Hitchens Stands Trial". In These Times. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  33. ^ Flood, Alison (16 January 2013). "Christopher Hitchens faces posthumous 'prosecution' in new book". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  34. ^ Bush, Stephen (16 November 2016). "Alex Nunns' new book is insightful – but can't settle the myth of Corbyn". New Statesman. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  35. ^ Potts, Robert (15 March 2017). "What is the Labour Party for?". Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  36. ^ Young, Liam (31 May 2016). "At last, Jeremy Corbyn gets the biography he deserves". New Statesman. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  37. ^ Moravcsik, Andrew (January–February 2017). "Capsule Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  38. ^ Berry, Mark (22 December 2016). "Books of the year 2016". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  39. ^ Coman, Julian (8 October 2017). "10 books about the politics of now: from the left-behinds to reborn radicals". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  40. ^ a b Elgot, Jessica (18 August 2016). "Momentum event featuring Corbyn 'is not Labour conference rival'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  41. ^ a b c "LENIN'S TOMB: Something I Said".
  42. ^ a b Peck, Tom (18 August 2016). "Jeremy Corbyn attends same event with speaker who called for Jewish journalist's throat to be cut". The Independent. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  43. ^ "Josh Hasten". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  44. ^ a b "LENIN'S TOMB: Brief statement on a couple of Facebook comments".
  45. ^ Cottee, Simon; Cushman, Thomas (2008). The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens. Christopher Hitchens and His Critics. New York: NYU Press. ISBN 9780814716878. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  46. ^ Seymour, Richard (2009). "John Spargo and American Socialism". Historical Materialism. Leiden, Netherlands.: Brill. 17 (2): 272. doi:10.1163/156920609X436225.
  47. ^ Marie Breen Smyth (2010). The War on Terror as Political Violence. The Ashgate Research Companion to Political Violence. Surrey, UK: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-7752-9.
  48. ^ American Insurgents: A Short History of American Anti-Imperialism. Haymarket Books. 2011. ISBN 978-1-60846-141-7. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  49. ^ Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens. London, UK: Verso Books. November 2012. ISBN 9781844679904.
  50. ^ Alexander Anievas; Nivi Manchanda; Robbie Shilliam (2014). Race and the Cold War. Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-72434-0.

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