Some last thoughts – from me anyway – on the International Brigades debacle. As I have tried to make clear since I wrote my piece about Hilary Benn last Thursday, I never meant to suggest any moral equivalence whatsoever between Daesh and the International Brigades. I continue to believe that the overall context of the article makes it clear that I intended no such thing, and that nobody who is familiar with my writing could ever believe that I would make such a suggestion.
That said, I recognize that the controversy which has resulted from the piece is not simply due to deliberate bad faith readings by those who wished to exploit it for their own particular purposes. I also bear some responsibility for the misinterpretations that have been placed on the piece. Many of those who have expressed outrage and disgust at the sentence in question are not familiar with my blog or my writing, and such familiarity should not have been required.
It should not have required a subsequent rebuttal from me to make my meaning clear. As a writer, I always strive to be clear and straightforward. In my reference to the International Brigades and the jihadist movement, I failed to achieve either. In my haste to attack Hilary Benn’s gross misappropriation of the International Brigades, I referred in passing to a difficult idea that required far more explanation and precision than I gave it, and left myself open to accusations of an equally gross misappropriation.
Of course I didn’t think that a paragraph from my blog would have been highlighted in the way it was, but I should have taken greater care, particularly in these difficult times, when a stray word or sentence taken out of context can easily acquire entirely different meanings to the ones you intend.
By not doing so, I inadvertently provided ammunition to those who are seeking to use the Stop the War movement to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the movement itself. Such people will always use whatever they can find, and they have played the hand I gave them well.
But I also recognize that I gave genuine offense to people who have no such agenda, who were outraged by the comparisons they believed I was making.
To these readers, and to these readers alone, I apologize.