There is something campy and parodic about the Labour Friends of Iraq, which I'm not sure I understand. Alan Johnson writes like someone engaged in self-mockery or self-caricature.
For instance, in one of his internet efforts he made something very like a direct appeal to Blair. Let Blair be Blair!
"The West Wing is a TV soap about a fictional Democrat US President, Jed Bartlett. In one scene his key aides decide that they have played defence long enough, creeping around a hostile Republican Congress and hyper-critical media, silencing their own better instincts. So someone scrawls on a piece of card 'Let Bartlett be Bartlett' and holds it aloft. A fightback begins...
"Someone needs to draw up a similar sign for the Labour leadership.... To move the country on (to a place I think the country wants to go) Labour politicians must first move themselves on by articulating a clear third way..."
(On the "Harry's Place" blog, 2 May 2005)
Some weeks later he joyously concluded that Blair had "been Blair", and appealed to other Labour MPs to back Blair more strongly.
"I agree with every word of Blair's speech [on the 7 July bombings in London]. It's a bloody marvellous speech. Just what needed to be said... The speech (July 16) is strikingly similar to the online statement Unite Against Terror which was written, in the main, by myself... Don't get us wrong, we are very happy to be unpaid speech-writers... Our questions are these... Are any Labour MPs making speeches even in the same ball park as Tony Blair? Are there any who speak with his kind of political understanding and passion..."
(On Norman Geras's blog, 19 July 2005)
It is no wonder that the Blair Labour Party, some months back, proclaimed the LFIQ website "website of the week". Birds of a feather flock together? An old Galeic proverb is more apt: "One cockroach knows another".
But it takes something special in 2005, even for someone who describes himself as one of "we social democrats", to write like that about Tory Tony, and in a rancidly naïve, or pretend-naïve, fanzine style.
The "patronising" tone and manner to Blair also tells its own sad story... Lauding Blair while simultaneously praising himself, Alan Johnson binges on sycophancy and fantasy politics.
The extravagant, almost self-guying, foolishness and shamelessness goes way beyond anything which a self-respecting adult version of his new politics requires. I'd explain it by the unfortunate Johnson's complete lack of a sense of humour - he might not notice that he is sending himself up - but the others in the clique are not humourless.
One source of the caricatural quality may be emulation of their hero, Blair. In the mid 1990s, when investors at Lloyds of London faced big market losses, Blair and the creeps around him announced in Parliament that New Labour would support the Tory Government should it decide to reimburse them from public funds. (It didn't). The shameless belly-crawling to the rich was meant to show how far New Labour was from old Labour.
Similarly, Johnson, Ashworth, and the others thumb their noses at their political past. And at their younger, braver, cleaner, less hag-ridden, higher-aspiring, vertebrate former selves.
The clue is probably in the self-abandoned, wild-acting-out, clowning-around quality of it, its Chico-and-Harpo bits of a Marx Brothers film quality ("there ain't no sanity-claus, Alan"). Like people who feel liberated, playing with long-despised toys and gleefully mimicking antics they once mocked and contemned.
Making public appeals to "great leaders" was of course for long the speciality of the Pablo-Mandel "Trotskyists" (the "Fourth International"). They were imaginary - and, as Hal Draper more than once observed in Labor Action, "borderline crackpot" - world strategists, engaged in a vain, delusory, search for short-cuts to "influence", writing appeals to a Tito, a Mao, a Khrushchev, and god knows who else, advising them on what to do next in order to progress History, the World Revolution, working-class democracy, Socialism...
One of them, Juan Posadas, who formed his own "Fourth International", went into outright madness - believing in socialist flying saucers from workers' states in outer space, etc. Posadas was also said to believe that Mao Zedong read his articles and plundered them for ideas...
If Johnson thinks that what he is doing now bears anything but a negative relationship to socialism as he has understood it for 25 years; if he thinks he is being "realistic" and "clever" and that (as he seemed to argue in the piece to which I replied last year, Solidarity 3/62) Third Camp independent working-class socialism will emerge, later, out of the Blair-Bush camp, then Draper's just description of the early 1950s "Pabloites" describes him too.
Alan Johnson's next effort for Labour Friends of Iraq? A Pablo-Mandel-style "open letter" to George Bush? Preview, dredged up by a remarkable feat of 21st century technology, from his pre-conscious mind:
Tony will no doubt have sent you a copy of my last letter. Dubya, you are bloody marvellous! The first neo-con Prince of the 21st century!
May I speak frankly, Mr President, one neo-con to another? George, you, like so many deep thinkers, can be a bit slow on the uptake. Fools call us stupid. We know we are not.
But people like us, George, we must stick together. Trade experience and advice. Tony says he just doesn't know where he'd be without my help, especially with his speeches. Of course, I do the best I can for him. What else am I here for?
(As the neo-con savant Charles Marks once said to his co-author of the Bourgeois-Democratic Manifesto, Herbert Spencer-Weitling: "Fuckwits of the world, unite!" That, I'm told, was a joke.)
Mr President, here's what I think we should do next. Those assholes, Assad of Syria and Ahmadinejad of Iran... Seize the time, George! Let Bush be Bush! Build on our success in Iraq! Spread democracy! Feed the world! (Oops! That's a stray bit of a song I'm writing for Bob Geldof. I mean: Free the world!)
Remember, who says Z must say A.
I'll keep in touch.
Yours for world bourgeois revolution!
Unpaid? Darling - do keep up!
I noticed that its not only Blair who takes from Johnson. Bibi Netenyahu also does. Only the day after Johnson posted on the web, Bibi lifted the phrase, 'classic confusion of cause and consequence' to describe those who think terrorism is the result of Israel.
Personally, I think Johnson must have known he was writing for one of the most reactionary leaders in the history of the world at the time he penned the phrase. Indeed, it fits so well it must have been written with Bibi's well known sense of rhythm in mind.