The Fashion for Hypocrisy 234

Hypocrisy seems to be massively in fashion.  This from William Hague renders me speechless: “Be in no doubt, there will be consequences. The world cannot say it is OK to violate the sovereignty of other nations.”

Then today we have the British Establishment at a closed event in Westminster Abbey in memory of Nelson Mandela.  Prince Harry, David Cameron, all the toffs.  I was never more than a footsoldier in the anti-apartheid movement, but I trudged through the rain and handed out leaflets in Dundee and Edinburgh.  I suspect very few indeed of the guests at this posh memorial service did that.  David Cameron was actively involved in Conservative groups which promoted precisely the opposite cause.

My first appointment in the Foreign Office was to the South Africa (Political) desk in 1984.  The official British government line was that the ANC was a terrorist organization.  I faced hostility and disapproval even when I tried to get action on appalling human rights abuses like the case of Oscar Mpetha (thanks here to Tony Gooch and Terry Curran, they know why).  I got in big trouble for asking how many black guests had been received in the High Commissioner’s residence in Pretoria.

Every day, on a day to day basis, my job involved dealing with members of the British establishment, its political, business and professional communities.  The entire tenor of those meetings was how to prevent economic sanctions, circumvent existing sanctions and prolong the economic advantages to the UK of white rule.  Support for PW Botha was axiomatic.  I have no doubt many of those people or those who worked alongside them are in Westminster Abbey today.

The final extraordinary outbreak of hypocrisy is on the British left.  Russian military invasion of Ukraine is approved by them, because it is an invasion by Russia, and not an invasion by the West.  They are precisely as hypocritical as Hague.  Both think it is OK to violate the sovereignty of other nations, but only by their chosen side.

Until 1917, Russia was an Empire, avowedly so.  Thereafter the Soviet Union was a non-avowed Empire. The Crimea, and the rest of the Caucasus, was not colonized by Russia until the 1820’s onward.  The reason Crimea has a majority Russian population is that Stalin deported the Krim Tartars as recently as the 1930’s.  That was an old fashioned, wholesale  colonial atrocity, precisely similar to the British clearing parts of Kenya for white settlement.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Russian statesmen like Nesselrode appealed to the British in particular, not to oppose their expansion in the Caucasus, because as he said like the British they were white Christian Europeans engaged in a civilizing mission among savages and Muslims.  It was precisely the same colonial motivation the British used.  There is no moral difference, or even overt difference in justification at the time, between British colonization of India and Russian colonization of Chechnya.  Because Britain happens to be an island, we think of Empires as something you get to by ship.  Russia’s Empire happened to be a contiguous land mass.  But Dagestan, Chechnya, and Tartarstan were none the less colonies, exactly as were Kokhand, Bokhara and Khiva, formed to make Uzbekistan.  Yet left wing anti-colonialism does not demand decolonisation by Russia, only the West. Gross hypocrisy.


234 thoughts on “The Fashion for Hypocrisy

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  • craig Post author


    You sound just like Willam Hague. “What if Gadaffi sends his troops into Benghazi?”

    The point is they are Ukrainians involved in a civil dispute with Ukrainians. It would be absolutely wrong for Russia to intervene, just as it was wrong for the West to intervene in Libya.

  • Mary

    The service is on live now on BBC 2. Archbishop Tutu is addressing the congregation. On this link I believe you can watch from the start.

    Zuma did not attend. He has gone to a Mugabe family wedding in Zimbabwe.

    Shame that the ANC liberation ended up with the likes of Zuma. Little has changed for the better in the life of the black South African, discounting those who have joined the middle class and have acquired wealth.

  • tristan

    I think this exposes one of the fatal flaws of all statist positions – its not about people, its about absolute power over areas of land.
    For the non-anarchist left (and possibly the non-Marxian), they too often take the same view as the right – the enemy of our enemy is our friend. Never mind that that ‘friend’ is a violent, right wing imperialist (or violent ‘left-wing’ imperialist).

    Its all about power for the elite, nothing about people and suffering. That’s sadly the same for those at the top of all sides in the Ukranian factions too.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    A bit more hypocrisy by you where you ignore English land-based imperialism at the expense of the Welsh, Scots and Celts, and Russian presence in the Ukraine since at least the 12th century when it was under attack by the nomads of central Asia..

    .And I an no British left-winger.

  • craig Post author


    The Kievan Rus were not just under attack, they were positively driven out to Muscovy in the 12th century. I agree with your point about English imperialism.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    I am not referring to the Kievan Rus but the Russians in eastern current Ukraine in the 12th century – what resulted in the appearance of The Tale of (Prince) Igor’s Campaign.

    It played the same role in the formation of Russian consciousness, as thevNibelungenlied and the poem of El Cid did in the formation of other European national consciousness.

  • craig Post author


    “More government, more bureaucracy, more laws, more police, more coercion”. I have consistently argued for less of all of those. I am deleting your comment as it is a deliberate falsehood.

  • craig Post author


    We are referring to the same event, and they left and went to Muscovy. Yes, Ukrainian lands are a potent part of Russia’s national myth. But that is exactly similar to Israel in Jewish national myth. The fact your people were somewhere a thousand or two thousand years ago does not give you the right to it now, if you left in the interim.

  • Clark

    Craig, I hope I’m not being hypocritical myself. I do try to avoid that. Various things seem to be insufficiently differentiated from each other, both in thought and reality, leading to a lot of confusion.

    There is the economic system of the EU, insufficiently differentiated from the military ambitions of US-dominated NATO.

    There is the objection to the questionable manner of the change of political power in Ukraine, insufficiently differentiated from opposition to the popular movement for change in Ukraine.

    There is concern about the sudden shift in the power-balance between the the nuclear-armed powers of the US and Russia, insufficiently differentiated from support for Russian interventionism.

    Personally, I feel that opinions similar to my own are being widely misrepresented in a manner that serves pro-Western-corporatist propaganda. This is why I’ve been arguing on these threads against all mud-slinging, including accusations of “supporting the Kremlin” or “supporting the Neocon agenda” or whatever; it takes time and considerable reflection when composing a comment to differentiate between the various tangled strands I mention above. It is much quicker and easier for those who point the finger at others and accuse them of being “supportive of (whichever chosen) enemy”, and consequently such commenters can post several comments and malign several other commenters in the time it takes myself to compose a comment such as this.

  • Pete

    No actually it IS the cutting edge of political analysis, and I congratulate you, Craig, on persisting in analysing political events from an ethical perspective rather than in terms of discredited political dogmas. The dishonesty of contemporary politics is the fundamental issue, because constructive discourse is almost impossible when people conceal their own true motivations.

    At to the contemporary British Left, they’re about as dogmatic, inhuman, dishonest, and oblivious to reality as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and discussions with them leave me equally frustrated.

  • craig Post author


    Honestly, that is pathetic. Five of the seven bullet points Orlov starts with are quite simply untrue.

  • ESLO


    I notice that Kosovo and Sierra Leone were missing from the list of foreign interventions that you opposed – was that deliberate or do believe that there are genuine cases for liberal interventionism?

  • Pete

    Actually my last comment was in response to a comment that Craig deleted while I was writing it!

    But on another point, Trowbridge, yes obviously you’re not British of any political persuasion, as you apparently think that “Celts” are a specific ethnic group distinct from “Welsh” and “Scots”. But I don’t want to derail the discussion into a (probably fruitless) discussion of the complexities of ethnicity and ancient British history.

    As regards whether “the Russians” were in Ukraine or any other place at any particular time in the Middle Ages, such discussions tend to project modern national self-definitions onto the past where in fact nations did not exist in the modern sense of the word. Historical atlases are very misleading when they show states expanding and contracting like amoebas. Mostly these boundary changes did not involve any transfer of population- the peasants stayed put and were merely taxed, oppressed, raped, and occasionally massacred by a different set of mounted warriors. Nationality is a modern construct.

  • Yossi

    He has many contacts in Ukraine and seems to be closer to the ground than most people who comment. What do you think of his comments iro “Heaven’s Hundred” ?

  • ESLO

    “There is the economic system of the EU, insufficiently differentiated from the military ambitions of US-dominated NATO.”

    Who is suggesting that the Ukraine joins NATO – I have seen no call from the Ukrainians to do so, and there have been several opinion polls where Ukrainians from all parts of the country have made it clear that they do not want to join NATO.

  • craig Post author


    No, I opposed Sierra Leone too – very actively indeed in the Foreign Office. I wrote a book about it! On Kossovo, I believe it was wrong too, but I was unfortunately so tied up over Sierra Leone I can’t pretend I paid much attention at the time.

  • Iain Orr

    Congratulations, Craig, on a series of astute pieces of analysis. Both on the arrest of Moazzem Begg and on the Ukraine crisis, what your clarity of exposition makes clear is how hypocrisy undermines the authority with which many of the actors speak.

    There’s such an accumulation of self-deception that it would be an astonishingly effective ploy to detach the “nasty” label from the Conservative Party if Cameron were to say – “I now admit, with shame, that there was a time when I and most people in the Conservative Party, including Mrs Thatcher, supported rulers of South Africa such as P W Botha and dismissed Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. We were wrong. The reason why I made such a wrong call was… [I’ll leave him to construct a concluding phrase which does not reduce a genuine apology to an apologia].”

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Well, at least one of Russia’s greatest composers revived the myth in the 19th century when it was in control of Kiev, unlike what happened with other European national myths.

    The weakness of the West’s case against Moscow is now demonstrated by its not going to the UN over Moscow’s alleged unprovoked aggressions – what it would, of course, only lose while having its covert dirty tricks exposed.

    Wonder if Snowden has given Moscow some insights into what the Anglo-Americans have been up to there, starting with the Sochi Games?

  • ESLO

    “as you apparently think that “Celts” are a specific ethnic group distinct from “Welsh” and “Scots”

    Haven’t you heard of the Cornish and Elmet?

  • old mark

    Craig, in your compendium of hypocrisy you have pointedly left out your beloved EU.

    Brussels is seemingly comfortable with members of Svoboda and Right Sector occupying cabinet posts in the new government in Kiev. Compare and contrast their current behaviour with the hissy fit they threw in 2000 when the Freedom Party (after gaining over 20% of the popular vote) obtained cabinet posts in the Austrian government, and Brussels imposed pointless ‘sanctions’ for several months-

  • Clark

    Pete, 1:29 pm;

    Actually my last comment was in response to a comment that Craig deleted while I was writing it!

    That’s one of the reasons I always preface my replies like I have this one.

    All: I do wish everyone would do the same; it helps to prevent confusion, unintended offence, and time wasted in responding to arguments that were actually directed elsewhere. It helps readers to look back in the thread to see exactly what a reply was in response to.

  • Clark

    ESLO, 1:35 pm

    “Who is suggesting that the Ukraine joins NATO “

    What matters in understanding recent Russain military action is whether the Russian government fears such a development.

  • craig Post author

    Old Mark

    Are members of Svoboda and Right Sector really occupying cabinet posts? Because I have repeatedly asked for examples, and so far the only examples given have been people who are not members of either, like Klitschko. I am not saying they are not, I am asking for the evidence as all I have seen so far is assertion.

  • jjb

    Hi Craig,

    Notwistanding the ilegality of the Crimean move, you cannot surely equate that with the Lybia affair. I mean, how many Texan-speakers live in western Lybia? How close is to Maryland? And so forth.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Sure have heard of the Cornish, as has bard Peter Ellis, author of Celt and Saxon, The Struggle for Britain AD 410-937, but who are Elmet? Can only find them on one of his maps, near Liincoln.

    And don’t forget the picts, scone, inbbhir ris, etc., just to name a few others.

  • ESLO

    Elmet is an area which was reputed to be the last stronghold of the Celts in England – Ted Hughes wrote the Remains of Elmet.

  • mike

    What invasion Craig?

    According to the status of force agreement Russia can post up to 30,000 soldiers in Crimea. The normal size of its forces there is just half of that. If Russia wants to reinforce those it can do so without breaking any national or international agreement.

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