Lobster 57 (The last hard copy Lobster)
(Hull, Summer 2009, ISSN 0964-0436)
Lobster is a magazine for “parapolitics” that has been appearing since 1983 at roughly two issues per year, edited by Robin Ramsay.
The main themes have always been the machinations of the secret state and various conspiracy theories, so MI5 and MI6, New Labour, Mind Control, JFK, Diana’s death etc featured prominently. Interestingly they stayed more or less clear of 9/11 conspiracy theories.
As announced on the cover of the latest issue, this is the last one in paper format, since Ramsay says he can’t be bothered to take care of printing and distributing 1’000 copies as on the internet many more readers could be reached without the hassle the former implies. If this is true remains to be seen – Lobster has so far chosen to only offer its online services for hard cash (or rather credit card) – costs for online access to the site range from £5 for 24 hours to £50 for a year.
It will remain to be seen if people are prepared to pay this sort of money, or if maybe the policy will be changed. I find it hard to imagine that Lobster will find many customers except maybe those who buy a 24 hour access and then proceed to download everything on the site in that time. All the other deals cost a lot more than occasionally buying a paper copy.
More important than this ratio is if Lobster remains to be worth reading, even if if was free on the internet.
The latest/last issue puts a question mark behind this.
The obsessions have remained the same without coming up with new insights.
Believe it or not, there is still “material” about the JFK assassination here. Indeed it doesn’t need a printed journal to waste ink on reviews of superfluous new books on that topic or the latest mafia boss’ death-bed “confession” that it was him who ordered JFK’s killing. I’m sure there are internet forums where Ramsay can discuss the issue with other “experts” and without bothering us.
But the political analysis of other articles is also lacking. One about the “‘Cult of the offensive’, pre-emptive war, the Israel lobby and US military Doctrine” forgets to mention where the idea of pre-emptive strikes in the Israeli military came from: to avoid a situation like in 1948 when a “war of extermination” was gleefully announced by the Arab League and Israel was attacked immediately after declaring its statehood.
In the next piece of the magazine Ramsay himself is outing himself in the “I’m not anti-American, but…” manner. He seems convinced that behind the ousting of the “good Tory” Edward Heath in favour of the “bad Tory” Margaret Thatcher were the Americans, just as much as they control the City of London, popular culture and the “central economic and cultural concepts which are in our politicians heads”, to the degree that “subservience to America is one of our society’s great no-go areas”.
Next is a review article titled “America, Israel and the Israel lobby” about the book “The Israel Lobby” by Mearsheimer and Walt, which according to Lobster is “required reading” and “a marvellous book”. Such great insights as “Israel pursues its own interests at all times” are banded around, as if the same thing wasn’t true for all other states.
There is also a completely inaccurate description of the support Israel receives from Christian fundamentalists, which is truly treacherous, and the author either doesn’t understand or knowingly suppresses the fact that Christian fundamentalism is essentially anti-Semitic (while they do think that Armageddon will take place in Israel, they also think that all Jews who don’t believe in the second coming of Christ will be killed in the course of it).
Lobster is calling “marvellous” a book that basically functions as an academically sanctioned fig-leaf for the insane belief that Jews do indeed control the world, this time not via the “Learned Elders of Zion”, but through the “Israel Lobby”.
That I’m getting into this topic first is due to the fact that these are indeed the first three articles in the issue. They are complemented by a review article later on titled “The Jewish Holocaust: held captive by its remembrance or liberated by its lessons?” The Zionist point of view of one of the books is fairly stated, but then doesn’t re-enter the discussion, which increasingly veers towards the popular “opinion” that anti-Semitism, if it exists, is the Jews’ own fault, and of course it always helps if you can quote someone like Avraham Burg, a former chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organisation saying: “We must admit that present-day Israel and its ways contribute to the rise in the hatred of Jews.” If even a jew says that it must be true, right?
Another theme that comes up throughout the magazine is the decline in manufacturing in Britain in favour of services etc in the last decades. Again this is supposed to be the result of machinations of interest groups. This ties in with the assessment of the Miner’s Strike as a counter-insurgency action against the Communist Party rather than this aspect only being one element. Of course the strike was to some degree “subversive”, in the sense that leaders like Arthur Scargill were no doubt hoping to be able to bring down the Thatcher government, something that did bring in the involvement of MI5 etc. But this was only one level, the others were the movement of Capital and the class struggle.
Being bourgeois old-Labourites Ramsay and co don’t have a grasp at Capital being the automatic subject and class struggles (from above and below) being motors of history. Lacking this they substitute them with “interest groups”, “lobbies” and the “secret state” as the agents of history, thinking this to be a more sophisticated view of history than that it is simply made by “great men”.
This is not to conclude that such machinations don’t exist, and that it would be worthless to expose them or write about them. But Ramsay exposes himself by admitting “At root I am simply not attracted to great schemes and theories (…) A lot of this may simply be down to personality types.”
No, it’s not: Understanding how capitalism works is instrumental at being able to formulate a critique. To remain on the level of “interest groups” etc, is not only to stay on a particular surface level (maybe one floor down from the discourses in the mainstream media, at best unearthing otherwise suppressed information), it is also in deep danger to arriving at fundamentally wrong models of explanation. It’s increasing obsession with the “Israel Lobby” and with Britain becoming some sort of American colony is a symptom of this sickness.