Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Poetic charge sheet

Tony Benn reviews Michael Horovitz's powerful new anti-war polemic

January 30, 2008
4 min read

In his new book, A New Waste Land, Michael Horovitz has deployed all his many talents to produce a passionate, poetic and immensely powerful polemic against Tony Blair’s New Labour administration for the policies he pursued as prime minister – and in particular his wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, his threats to Iran and his consistent and deliberate deception of the British public and parliament to justify his actions.

For those who have been advocating a war crimes tribunal to arraign him and President Bush this poetic charge sheet could be used by any lawyer as a brief to guide him in preparing his case. Since no such trial has ever taken place A New Waste Land will remain on the record as a reminder for all those around the world who do not wish these crimes ever to be forgotten.

Michael was disappointed that the hopes raised in 1997 were so quickly dashed. Even those who, like myself, never expected as much as he did, find it hard to believe that it went as badly wrong as it did.

His style is brilliant using historical quotations, pictures, cartoons and poetry laid out in a way that elevates it to the level of art to make his point and it is effective in a way that no speech could do. Thoroughly researched, with footnotes to justify his assertions, he tackles a wide range of subjects, ranging from atomic weapons to privatisation as a deliberate instrument to diminish the role of the electorate and transfer the power back to the powerful economic forces that today dominate the political process so comprehensively.

Reminded of Hiroshima, we see the decision to renew Trident in its proper historical context as a conscious decision to maintain weapons of even greater power that could – if ever used – inflict death and destruction on millions of innocent people.

Palestine’s unanswered pleas for peace and justice feature strongly, and we are reminded of the wicked practice of unspeakable torture that we have come to accept, as well as the rendition process, which makes it easier to transport the victims to countries where it can be done in secret, leaving the perpetrators to deny their own responsibility.

A New Waste Land was published on the 250th birthday of William Blake and, wherever his spirit now rests, Blake will be proud to read such a clear re-statement of the principles that he enunciated and that have – as this book will have – a permanent place in the libraries of the world and in the minds of those who read them.

But horrific as the picture Horovitz paints may be, we must never allow it to drive us into pessimism about the future, for hope is the fuel of progressive movements and fear is a prison into which we confine ourselves. Knowing Michael’s indomitable spirit I am sure that he too retains the hope we shall need if a peaceful and just world is to be built – as it must be.

‘Timeship Earth at Nillenium’

(from A New Waste Land)

Is not a reverence



for life


– for all land, sea and air



the path Jesus struck,

Shock and Awe Basher Bush,

Trade and War Preacher Blair?




Have you no shame?

How could you claim

to follow Christ

when your fame has spread

so many dark days and nights

with more dead

across so many lands, from your hands




famed oily blood brothers

who wrought so much hurt, loss and fright

– dread of so many children and mothers



with your gospel of markets and self-righteous might

whose weapons ignite still more terror and plight

filling land, sea and air

with endless infection, bombs and despair

‘Love thy neighbour

as thyself’

– NOT

‘An eye for an eye’


is what Jesus preached,

Big Top Barker Bush,

and your yapping

Dog-collared Upsucking

Mascot Blair



A New Waste Land (New Departures) is available, price £25 hardback, £15 paperback, from Central Books www.centralbooks.com

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe