The egghead has landed. One of the UK’s leading bloggers, Professor Norm Geras, is in the country for the duration of the Ashes. Professor at Manchester and a cricket fanatic, Geras has shot to a fame of sorts as the progenitor of Normblog, a blog which mixes left-liberal political commentary, erudition, reportage, short stories and much more in equal measure.

It’s also been one of the most important blogs – a sort of virtual keystone – in the movement of the pro-war left that arose after the 9/11 attacks and which came to its height in the leadup and brief triumphal aftermath of the three-year war on Iraq. Look at the blogroll on most of these sites and you’ll find Normblog at the top or close to it. He’s also much loved by sections of the right.

It’s been a long, strange trip for most of the pro-war left, but perhaps none more so than Geras, who is one of Britain’s leading Marxist theoreticians. Geras was influential on an outfit called the International Marxist Group, who believed in building Mao-style “Red Bases” in western cities, and once captured one seat on Hackney council.

But it was his book The Contract of Mutual Indifference which was to prove most influential on other pro-war ex-Trots like Christopher Hitchens. It argued that guilt over the Holocaust had frozen us into inaction over current atrocities, and that a fighting, pro-intervention left was needed.

Consequently, when Geras recanted on active support for the Iraq war – after the Johns Hopkins finding of a median 650,000 deaths – it was just about the final blow in the wavering column of pro-war leftists. It certainly put paid to any credibility for the pro-intervention Euston Manifesto group that Geras had helped put together.

Geras’s formulation now is, that if he had known how the war would turn out, he would not have supported it, but nor would he have opposed it. Sounds like, well, indifference to me.

Most pro-war left journalists were dopes – Geras doesn’t have that excuse. Ironically for someone keen to avoid a holocaust, he did his little bit to sponsor a killing field.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey