Bizarre Exchange Between Oliver Kamm And Joseph Ball
Prominent New Labour supporter and author Oliver Kamm has recently been involved in a bizarre email exchange with pro-Mao author Joseph Ball, which included allegations from Oliver Kamm that Ball had threatened to sue him for libel. Extracts from this email exchange have been published on Oliver Kamm’s blog. Joseph Ball is the writer of the article ‘Did Mao Really Kill Millions In The Great Leap Forward?’, which was published in the ‘Commentary’ section of the US published Monthly Review
magazine’s website (www.monthlyreview.org). Oliver Kamm compared Ball’s article to the work of the racist, holocaust denier David Irving .
Oliver Kamm describes himself as ‘an author, columnist and banker’. He writes regularly for The Times and The Guardian. He wrote Anti-Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy, which was published in 2005. He has worked at the Bank of England, HSBC Securities and Commerzbank Securities, and is a founder of an asset management and advisory firm, WMG Advisors LLP, based in London.
Kamm has devoted a surprising amount of time and column inches on his blog to attacks on the hitherto little known, left-wing writer Joseph Ball. Initially tempers were heated on both sides during the exchanges. However, Kamm continued to send bitter e-mails even after Ball had asked Oliver to send him no more e-mails unless they had ‘a proper purpose’.
Kamm has attempted to represent the exchange as an attempt to defend himself from the threat of a libel writ, despite publishing extracts from Ball’s e-mails on his blog that seemed to indicate that Ball had never planned to issue a writ. …………..
The initial comments, by Kamm, comparing Joseph Ball to David Irving were made on his blog on the 2nd of October (see http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2007/10/divers-deniers.html).
Kamm wrote: ‘I’ve mentioned this week my reader David Irving, the Holocaust denier. This post is not about him. It is about other schools of tendentious interpretation that I believe ought to be mentioned in the same breath as Mr Irving’s baseless work.’
The post goes onto refer to Ball’s article, then states-
‘It is not an error to treat the far Right and the far Left as comparable forces in malignity. I will go so far as the historian Robert Conquest in feeling that Nazism is a greater historical evil than Communism. Yet the disrepute and the mode of argument of the political fringes are parallel and not divergent.’
Kamm continued his attacks on Ball in three subsequent posts (see http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2007/10/absolutely-enra.html, http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2007/10/famine-what-fam.html, http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2007/10/dealing-with-li.html).
In Ball’s article on Mao he writes about ‘The Great Leap Forward’ that began in China in 1958. This was a mass movement for the rapid development of agriculture and industry. The allegation is made that 30 million died during the Great Leap Forward. Ball points out that, the Chinese death rate figures that ‘prove’ this allegation only appeared 20 years after the event, during a political campaign by Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping against the ideological legacy of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Even Judith Banister, one of the demographers who has done most to promote the 30 million deaths figure, expresses extreme doubts about the sources for it. She describes death rate data gathered before the 1970s in China as ‘non-existent’ or ‘useless’. Yet without these figures there is little in the way of hard evidence to prove that such a massive famine took place.
In his initial email to Kamm, Ball responded to Kamm’s attack on him for opposing the commonly expressed view that Stalin was ‘as bad as Hitler’. Ball wrote ‘No-one now accepts Robert Conquest’s speculative figures about the numbers that Stalin is meant to have killed. [Robert Conquest is an author who claims Stalin killed many millions.] Anti-Communists have retreated to the position that Stalin killed hundreds of thousands on the basis of a few bits of paper found in the insecure and politically contested space of the ex-Soviet archives. I am not prepared to accept this ‘evidence’ without corroboration.’
Joseph Ball states that ‘Oliver Kamm is, in many ways, the last of New Labour, neo-con supporting die-hards. While other try to distance themselves from the disastrous decision to invade Iraq, Kamm is unrepentant about his pro-war views.’
In a post of 04/09/07 entitled ‘Unsparing Of Reputations’ (see http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2007/09/index.html), Kamm criticises his uncle Martin Bell (whose election manifesto Kamm wrote in 1997 when Martin Bell defeated Tory MP Neil Hamilton), for calling for an enquiry into the Iraq war. Kamm writes ‘Those who believe, as I do, that the former PM has been a powerful influence for good at home and in the international order are usually depicted – at least in my experience of debating these issues – as a minority on the defensive.’
Ball states that ‘The mantra that communism was as bad as nazi ideology is an essential part of the neo-con world view. Whatever mistakes were made, communism in China up until 1976 and the USSR up until the late 1950s led to rapid modernisation and increases in the health and welfare of ordinary people. Denial of the positives of communism and gross exaggeration of the negatives is used to justify the imposition of brutal free-market policies on the poor nations of the global South. These policies have led to levels of poverty and deprivation unimaginable in the rich nations. A more balanced view of communism could lead to the implementation of far more progressive social and economic policies for nations currently afflicted by poverty and underdevelopment.’
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