I had managed only one speech against the war in Kosovo when I was carted off to hospital in the middle of the night with what I later discovered was an aortic aneurism. Hardly had the surgeons opened me up than my aorta, an artery which runs from heart to head, ruptured. Almost all such ruptures end in death, and for many weeks I lay in a coma. When I came round, expertly patched up but still without much prospect of recovery, I was plagued by hallucinations. Chief among these was the heroic speech I had made not about Kosovo but to the massed ranks of the women's liberation movement in South Australia, from whose congress, I was quite sure, I was returning when I fell ill. It was only when I finally convinced myself a) that I had never been to South Australia in my life b) that if ever I did go there I was most unlikely to be a key speaker at a women's liberation congress and c) that the hospital where I was lying was not, as I had thought, on a sandbank near New Guinea but in Homerton, East London, a quarter of an hour's drive from home, that I asked about the Kosovo war. When I heard that it was still raging, supported not only by the New Labour Government but also by the Guardian and several left-wing journalists whose opinion I had previously respected, I was finally brought to my senses by that faithful old pick-me-up for sick socialists, indignation. Could the Government, I wondered fitfully, survive such a monstrous war? Indeed, could the Government survive at all? The war seemed to be a symptom of the diseases which had struck down the previous two Labour Governments: support for US imperialist adventures abroad and impotence in the face of corporate power at home. The Kosovo catastrophe was proof of the first. The reversal, in the face of the most extravagant and impertinent opposition from US power monopolies, of the Blair Government's attempts to encourage the coal industry by curbing the growth of gas, proof of the second.
LRB 28 October 1999 | PDF Download