Seumas Milne

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Seumas Milne
Born 1958 (age 56–57)
Nationality British
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Birkbeck, University of London
Occupation Journalist and writer
Employer The Guardian
Political party Labour Party
Parent(s) Alasdair Milne (father)

Seumas Milne (born 1958) is a British journalist and writer known for his left-wing views.[1][2][3] A columnist and associate editor at The Guardian newspaper, he is author of a best-selling book[4] about the 1984–5 British miners' strike, The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners,[5] which focuses on the role of MI5 and Special Branch in the dispute.

Early life[edit]

The younger son of the former BBC Director General Alasdair Milne, Milne attended Winchester College and read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Balliol College, Oxford, and Economics at Birkbeck College, London University. His sister, Kirsty, who died in July 2013, was an academic and former journalist.[6]


Milne was the business manager of Straight Left, a monthly publication of an orthodox factional group within the Communist Party of Great Britain.[7] Milne worked as a staff journalist for three years on The Economist before joining The Guardian, where he has been a news reporter, Labour Correspondent (Europe), Labour Editor, and Comment Editor (for six years, 2001-7).

Milne has reported for The Guardian from the Middle East, Latin America, Russia, Eastern Europe and South Asia,[8] and also written for Le Monde Diplomatique[9] and the London Review of Books.[10]

Milne has been described as a "staunch socialist" in the Evening Standard.[3] Following an article he published in September 1995 in The Guardian, Milne "became characterised as a 'far-left activist' and member of the Socialist Workers Party".[1] Peter Popham argued that connecting Milne to the SWP was a "smear", but "there is no mistaking that Seumas is on the far left of the Labour Party, of which he has been a member for 20 years".[1] Milne served on the executive committee of the National Union of Journalists for ten years.[1][8] He was joint winner of the 1999 What the Papers Say Scoop of the Year award.[11]


On British politics[edit]

Milne was a strong critic of New Labour, in particular over its support for foreign wars, privatisation and low taxes on the wealthy.[12] He has argued that David Cameron's "makeover" of the Conservative Party is "skin deep"[13] and attacked the party for its links with "rightwing fringe" parties in eastern Europe[13] and support for "small state" public spending cuts.[14]

On Muslims in Britain[edit]

Milne was involved in a Stop the War Coalition appeal to stop attacks on the Muslim community.[15] He was one of the speakers in a public meeting titled "Kafa - Enough: Stop attacks on the Muslim community", which was held on 26 June 2009. In his speech, Milne argued that there is a basic process that can be seen across all of the British media:

A racist portrayal of Muslims and Islam in general, a tendency to hype all bogus terror plots into something utterly beyond the pale... A process which is verged on incitement, and has played a central role I think in isolating and intimidating the community, and as we seen in places like Luton and elsewhere, effectively fueling violence on the streets and attacks on Muslim institutions and mosques in particular.[16]

On capitalism and communism[edit]


Milne has argued that the financial and economic crisis of 2007-9 has discredited the neoliberal model of capitalism "that dominated the world for a generation".[17] He has argued for full public ownership of banks in Britain to support economic recovery and overcome the credit crisis.[18]


Milne has attacked what he calls "the creeping historical revisionism that tries to equate Nazism and communism",[19] which he argues has tended to "relativise the unique crimes of Nazism, bury those of colonialism and feed the idea that any attempt at radical social change will always lead to suffering, killing and failure".[20] He has written that communism's "crimes are now so well rehearsed that they are in danger of obliterating any understanding of its achievements, both of which have lessons for the future of progressive politics and the search for a social alternative to globalised capitalism".[21]

Milne has argued:

For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment... Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.[22]

Milne has also criticised the Council of Europe and others for adopting "as fact the wildest estimates of those 'killed by communist regimes'".[22] He has argued that, while "the numbers remain a focus of huge academic controversy",[20] the real records of repression now available from the Soviet archives are horrific enough (799,455 people were recorded as executed between 1921 and 1953 and the labour camp population reached 2.5 million at its peak) without engaging in an ideologically-fuelled inflation game".[22]

Al-Qaeda attacks and the response[edit]

11 September attacks[edit]

Milne argued that the 11 September, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington were the product of "longstanding grievances" over US intervention in the Middle East: "not only western indulgence of Israeli military occupation, but decades of oil-lubricated support for despots from Iran to Oman, Egypt to Saudi Arabia and routine military interventions to maintain US control".[23] On 13 September 2001, Milne wrote[24] that "most Americans simply don't get.. why the United States is hated with such bitterness, not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but across the developing world". Milne argued that in the aftermath of "such atrocities", only a minority were likely to "make the connection between what has been visited upon them and what their government has visited upon large parts of the world. But make that connection they must, if such tragedies are not to be repeated."[24] He wrote that the US was "reaping a dragon's teeth harvest" it had itself sowed in Afghanistan in the 1980s.[24]

Afghanistan and Iraq wars[edit]

Seumas Milne has been a vocal critic of the "war on terror"[25] and the wars in Afghanistan[26] and Iraq.[27] Milne argued in 2001 that war in Afghanistan would fail to "stamp out anti-western terrorism" and if the US invaded Iraq, "it risks a catastrophe".[28] In relation to Iraq, Milne has argued that:

Given that the invasion of Iraq was regarded as illegal by the majority of the UN security council, its secretary general, and the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion, it must by the same token be seen as a war crime: what the Nuremberg tribunal deemed the "supreme international crime" of aggression. If it weren't for the fact that there is not the remotest prospect of any mechanism to apply international law to powerful states, Bush and Blair would be in the dock at the Hague.[27]

Milne has argued for a "negotiated withdrawal" from Afghanistan based on a "political settlement, including the Taliban and regional powers".[26]

7/7 London bombings[edit]

A week after the 7 July 2005 London bombings Milne linked the attacks with the British involvement in the war in Iraq.[29] Milne argued:

We can't of course be sure of the exact balance of motivations that drove four young suicide bombers to strike last Thursday, but we can be certain that the bloodbath unleashed by Bush and Blair in Iraq - where a 7/7 takes place every day - was at the very least one of them. What they did was not "home grown", but driven by a worldwide anger at US-led domination and occupation of Muslim countries.[29]

Motivations of al-Qaeda[edit]

Milne argued after the London bombings that it was "an insult to the dead" and a "piece of disinformation long peddled by champions of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan" to claim that al-Qaeda and its followers were motivated by "a hatred of western freedoms and way of life" and "that their Islamist ideology aims at global domination", rather than "the withdrawal of US and other western forces from the Arab and Muslim world" and an end to support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and despotic regimes in the region.[29] Victor J. Seidler, a Professor of Social Theory from the University of London, argued in relation to Milne's article that we have to be careful "not to dismiss an Islamist rejection of the freedoms of Western urban cultures, in relation to consumerism and sexualities".[30] Seidler argued that contrary to Milne's claims, that they were at least partly motivated by "Islamist religious doctrine".[31] Mohammad Sidique Khan one of the London bombers stated that they launched the attack because " Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible."[32]

On Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran[edit]

Milne has stated that since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, "Iran and its allies offer the only effective challenge to US domination of the Middle East and its resources".[33] After the 2009 presidential election in Iran, Milne argued that the evidence suggested Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had in fact won the elections, despite allegations of fraud.[34] Milne wrote that "it's hard to believe that rigging alone could account for the 11 million-vote gap between the main contenders".[34] Milne has described Ahmadinejad's "toying with Holocaust denial" as "morally repugnant and factually absurd".[35] But he argued that, while for the western media Ahmadinejad is "nothing but a Holocaust-denying fanatic... the other Ahmadinejad, who is seen to stand up for the country's independence, expose elite corruption on TV and use Iran's oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority is largely invisible".[34]

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict[edit]

In the Middle East, Milne has argued that "commitment to Palestinian rights should first of all be a question of justice. But, given the toxicity this conflict brings to the entire relationship with the Muslim world, it is also a matter of obvious western self-interest".[36] He has written that "far from supporting the Palestinian national unity necessary to make any peace agreement stick", the US and its allies "are doing everything possible to deepen the split between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah movement".[37]

1948 Arab–Israeli War[edit]

Milne has argued that "it is to Britain's historic shame that having played such a central role in the creation of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the dispossession of a people it had promised to protect, it has done so little to try to right those wrongs."[36] Milne claimed that ethnic cleansing of Palestinians had been orchestrated by Israel months before the end of the British Mandate for Palestine.[36]

Battle of Jenin[edit]

Milne described the Battle of Jenin ( 1–11 April 2002) during Operation Defensive Shield as an "unleashing of state terror" by the Israeli government whilst describing the fierce fighting of Palestinian militants as "desperate Palestinian resistance".[38] Milne claimed during the fighting in Jenin that as "in other West Bank towns and camps, reports of beatings and executions of prisoners abound, and Israel appears to be preparing the ground for evidence of atrocities". Milne also stated that "Hundreds [of Palestinians] are reported killed, including many civilians.[38]

Gaza War[edit]

In the aftermath of the Gaza War (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009) Milne cited allegations of Israeli war crimes to argue: "With such powerful evidence of violations of the rules of war now emerging from the rubble of Gaza, the test must be this: is the developing system of international accountability for war crimes only going to apply to the west's enemies – or can the western powers and their closest allies also be brought to book?"[39]

Columnist Melanie Phillips,[40] in an article titled "The Guardian Goes to Pallywood" on her Spectator blog, highly criticised the factual truth of the research and the anti-Israeli stance of the Guardian, describing it as "an evil newspaper".[41] At the end of this long article Phillips criticised Milne's commentary as:

Lazy, malicious use of partisan, uncorroborated, thin, ambiguous and on occasion demonstrably absurd allegations, with the purpose and effect of demonising and delegitimising the Israeli victims of terrorism by painting them as the terrorists and their Palestinian attackers as their victims.[41]

On Libya[edit]

Milne alleged NATO to be indirectly responsible for the killing of many civilians in the Libyan civil war of 2011 and wrote that global justice would demand a trial against NATO because of its support of the Libyan rebels.[42]

On Latin America[edit]

Milne has written in support of what he calls "the wave of progressive change in Latin America",[36] which he has described as "the most hopeful development in global politics in the past two decades".[36]

Milne described the restoration of the sight of Mario Terán, the former Bolivian sergeant who killed Che Guevara, by Cuban doctors "paid for by revolutionary Venezuela in the radicalised Bolivia of Evo Morales", one of "1.4 million free eye operations carried out by Cuban doctors in 33 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa", as "an emblem both of the humanity of Fidel Castro and Guevara's legacy" and the transformation of Latin America.[36]

Milne has also argued that Hugo Chávez's presidency has been the target of "unfounded accusations of dictatorship" in the western media.[36] Milne claimed that Chávez proposed referendum to eliminate term limits (which passed on 15 February 2009 after previously rejected on August 2007)[citation needed] was "bring[ing] the country into line with the rules in France and Britain".[36]



Milne was described by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine as having turned the Guardian's comment section into a "truly global debating forum".[43]

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan claimed that Milne's greatest achievement "was to take full advantage of the expansion of the Guardian’s comment pages, which he edited until last year, making them the most thought-provoking opinion section in Britain".[2] Hannan also praised Milne as "a sincere, eloquent and uncomplicated Marxist".[2]


Milne was singled out by Tony Blair in a December 2001 dossier as one of ten media critics of the war in Afghanistan and the US-British response to the 9/11 attacks whose views he claimed had "proved to be wrong".[44] He was described by the novelist Robert Harris as "a Stalinist Rip van Winkle" in a September 2001 article supporting the war on terrorism.[45] The journalist Melanie Phillips portrayed Milne as a "Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas mouthpiece".[41]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Peter Popham "Media families 7. The Milnes", The Independent, 31 March 1997
  2. ^ a b c Daniel Hannan "My top five Leftie columnists", The Daily Telegraph, 10 July 2008
  3. ^ a b "In the air", Evening Standard, 16 August 2006
  4. ^ Christopher Andrew The Defence of the Realm, 2009, London: Allen Lane, p.677, and footnote 49, p.968
  5. ^ Guardian Comment is Free page for Seumas Milne.
  6. ^ Iain Martin "Obituary: Kirsty Milne, journalist and academic", The Scotsman, 16 July 2013
  7. ^ Michael Mossbacher "Overrated: Seumas Milne", Standpoint, September 2011
  8. ^ a b Guardian profile
  9. ^ Seumas Milne, Le Monde Diplomatique 2009
  10. ^ Seumas Milne "After the May Day flood", London Review of Books, 5 June 1997
  11. ^ Guardian awards "What the Papers Say" The Guardian, 16 March 1999
  12. ^ Seumas Milne "New Labour is finished. The fight is over what replaces it", The Guardian, 8 May 2008
  13. ^ a b Seumas Milne "We have been warned: the nasty party is still with us", The Guardian, 7 October 2009
  14. ^ Seumas Milne "The cuts agenda is a brilliant diversion from the real crisis", The Guardian, 16 September 2009
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Seumas Milne - Defend the Muslim Community", Youtube 27 June 2009
  17. ^ Seumas Milne "Not the death of capitalism, but the birth of a new order", The Guardian, 23 October 2008
  18. ^ Seumas Milne "Our banks are too important to be left in private hands", The Guardian, 22 January 2009
  19. ^ Seumas Milne "This rewriting of history is spreading Europe's poison", The Guardian, 9 September 2009
  20. ^ a b Seumas Milne "The battle for history", The Guardian, 12 September 2002
  21. ^ Seumas Milne "Movement of the people", The Guardian, 12 May 2007
  22. ^ a b c Seumas Milne "Communism may be dead, but clearly not dead enough", The Guardian, 16 February 2006
  23. ^ Seumas Milne "US comes up against the real world", The Guardian, 27 September 2001
  24. ^ a b c Seumas Milne "They can't see why they are hated: Americans cannot ignore what their government does abroad", The Guardian, 13 September 2001
  25. ^ Seumas Milne "A war that can't be won", The Guardian, 21 November 2002
  26. ^ a b Seumas Milne "In a war for democracy, why worry about public opinion?", The Guardian, 14 October 2009
  27. ^ a b Seumas Milne "There must be a reckoning for this day of infamy", The Guardian, 20 March 2008
  28. ^ Seumas Milne "Lurching towards catastrophe", The Guardian, 11 October 2001
  29. ^ a b c Seumas Milne "It is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq", The Guardian, 14 July 2005
  30. ^ Victor J. Seidler, Urban Fears and Global Terrors, 2007. p. 116
  31. ^ Victor J. Seidler, Urban Fears and Global Terrors, 2007. p. 118
  32. ^ London bomber: Text in full, BBC, 1 September 2005. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
  33. ^ Seumas Milne "The fallout from an attack on Iran would be devastating", The Guardian, 5 October 2007
  34. ^ a b c Seumas Milne "These are the birth pangs of Obama's new regional order", The Guardian, 18 June 2009
  35. ^ Seumas Milne "What credibility is there in Geneva's all-white boycott?", The Guardian, 23 April 2009
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h Seumas Milne "Expulsion and dispossession can't be cause for celebration", The Guardian, 15 May 2008
  37. ^ Seumas Milne "There can be no Middle East settlement without Hamas", The Guardian, 29 July 2009
  38. ^ a b Seumas Milne "Our friends in Jenin", The Guardian, 11 April 2002
  39. ^ Seumas Milne "Will Israel be brought to book?", The Guardian - Comment is Free, 23 March 2009
  40. ^ The New Statesman Melanie Phillips, Michael Portillo and me 25 February 2010 Retrieved 26/09/12
  41. ^ a b c Melanie Phillips "The Guardian goes to Pallywood", The Spectator (blog), 24 March 2009[dead link]
  42. ^ Seumas Milne If there were global justice, Nato would be in the dock over Libya, The Guardian, 15 May 2012
  43. ^ Naomi Klein The Shock Doctrine, 2007, London: Penguin, p530
  44. ^ "Blair Shames War Weasels", The Sun, 21 December 2001
  45. ^ Robert Harris "Now my generation is in a war we must win", The Daily Telegraph, 18 September 2009

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