Of course, Adam. The SPGB would never disparage apostates, would it? I’m actually a great admirer of Hitchens. ‘God is not great: How religion poisons everything’ remains one of my favourite books ever, and I often refer people I’m trying to convince of the case for socialism to Hitchens’ documentary on Mother Theresa if they happen to suffer from the religion virus. It’s true that he was ridiculously daft about Trotsky, and he was as wrong about socialism as he was about capitalism. But let’s be clear: infuriating though he may have been he did some good work. Far too often we revolutionaries are far too fond of condemning and dismissing people who make a great contribution to the movement without actually being socialists.
I see that on Newsnight on Wednesday Jeremy Paxman said that Giles Fraser, the dean (or whatever he was) of St Pauls who had to resign because he welcomed the Occupiers there, was once in the SWP. I wonder if he was a member at the same time as Hitchens. They could have had some interesting debates.
I like to think the SPGB treat ex-members with some of the same ideas not quite as shoddily as SWP treat Hitchens. Although its probably no accident that Alex Callinicos’ obituary glosses over what Hitchens is best known for outside of left circles – popularising atheism in the United States. This might sit a bit uncomfortably with SWP who offered use of prayer rooms at more than one Marxism festival up until recently.
Not to mention the fact that he was a vociferous supporter of the invasion of Iraq!! I’m surprised to hear that they even acknowledged his passing. I was, incidentally, merely jesting about the attitude of the party to it’s ex-members which, in my experience, has always been somewhere in the region of tolerant. Apart from David McDonagh, in whose case it’s way too tolerant!!
Well I suppose its speculative and we might agree to disagree but I think Hitchens did more for atheism than he ever did for the US case for the invasion of Iraq. The debate with Galloway is probably the best one of that decade not that either one of those political beliefs is worth supporting, just that they were good orators. Ironically, strictly speaking Hitchens was the Trotskyist debating the Labourite Galloway. One might say Trotskyism is what you make of it.