Alexander Cockburn, sharp-witted provocateur of the left, dies at 71
Tao Ruspoli - Alexander Cockburn wrote political columns for The Nation, Village Voice and others.
By Matt Schudel, Published: July 21
Alexander Cockburn, a sharp-witted journalist and unapolo*getic provocateur of the left who brought a hard-nosed intensity to his political columns in the Nation, the Village Voice and other outlets, died July 21 at a medical clinic near Frankfurt, Germany. He was 71.
He was being treated for colo*rectal cancer, said Jeffrey St. Clair, co-editor with Mr. Cockburn of CounterPunch, a magazine and Web site.
Mr. Cockburn (pronounced KOH-burn) brought a British tradition of argumentation and outrageously opinionated journalism to the United States when he arrived in the 1970s. He was an avowed liberal — even a radical — who eagerly engaged rhetorical battles with opponents and friends across the political spectrum.
“Alex had an uncompromising vision of life and of his writing,” St. Clair said. “He was writing incredibly controversial columns, and American readers had no experience with that forthright British style.
Alexander Cockburn: The Last Stalinist, an Enemy of Freedom, and a low-level Anti-Semite. May He Not Rest in Peace
July 23, 2012 - 2:05 pm - by Ron Radosh
You know that when hosannas of praise rise up for a journalist who died, simply described in the New York Times obituary
as a “left-wing writer,” that a great deal remains unsaid. The writer who passed away a few days ago is Alexander Cockburn, and the piece by Colin Moynihan says that he became known as an “unapologetic leftist, condemning what he saw as the outrages of the right but also castigating the American liberal establishment when he thought it as being timid.” He is described by a former colleague at the Village Voice as having “a remarkable mind.”
One could say his mind was remarkable, if one chooses to use that word to describe someone who once wrote that the Soviet Union in Leonid Brezhnev’s day was “the golden age of the Soviet working class,” and who regularly reprinted Soviet and Cuban disinformation from their intelligence agencies as unadulterated truths.
In many ways, Alex Cockburn was the true successor of Walter Duranty, a man who wrote to serve the enemies of the United States and to glorify what he saw as the great achievements of the Bolsheviks and their successors.
So let us turn now to what others have said about him. The Washington Post obituary
writer refers to him as “an avowed liberal — even a radical,” which is like saying Pat Buchanan is just another conservative, even one possibly on the far Right. Ralph Nader, we learn, called Cockburn a man of the Left “who defined the frontiers of candid progressive ideas.” What one can learn is that Cockburn could be judged by the views of his admirers.
One of them is Justin Raimondo
, the proprietor of Antiwar.com, the website that tried its best to forge a Red-Brown alliance of the Right and the far Left in the cause of opposition to “American imperialism and interventionism.” He reminds us, because he was Cockburn’s comrade in opposition to the NATO war against the Milosevic regime during the Clinton presidency, during which Cockburn shared the platform at rallies with Pat Buchanan. Raimondo thinks Cockburn was not of the Left, but was a populist anarcho-syndicalist, whatever that may be, and later, he thinks that Cockburn was having a “paleoconservative moment,” since he was “a paleo-radical who had had survived long enough to be considered a reactionary.”
Raimondo and his friends on the paleocon Right of course would be happy to have Cockburn as an ally, but to exonerate Cockburn of Stalinism simply ignores all the evidence of the many times Cockburn — like his father Claud, who served the NKVD during the Spanish Civil War as Stalin’s favorite toady journalist in Spain – lied on behalf on totalitarians.
To read about the background of Cockburn and the links to his father, I highly recommend first this article
written a few years ago by a blogger that provides chapter and verse about Claude Cockburn and his son Alex. The writer shows how Alex regularly sought to replicate and endorse his father’s lies.
I know this because over the years I was the subject of Cockburn’s attacks. They reveal a hard-line Stalinist, not a mythical, crusading journalist heralded by his colleagues at The Nation
(like John Nichols) as a simple teller of truth to power.
One fight I had with him was over the former Cuban political prisoner Armando Valladares, whose memoir Against All Hope I reviewed favorably for the New York Times Book Review. Valladares was the first political prisoner to make known the truth about the torture state that Fidel Castro had created in Cuba, thereby making the public aware for the first time in our country of the reality of how Castro treated his country’s political opponents. Accepting the Castro regime’s claims as absolute truth, Cockburn wrote that I had left out of my review that Valladares had been “a police officer in the Batista regime.” His point was simple: a hated cop for the old regime, Valladares’ account of his torture in prison was all made up.