Nick Cohen’s strong attack on the chair of the Stop the War Coalition, Andrew Murray, in the New Statesman has predictably led to a series of letters to the magazine defending Murray from the criticism. Particularly predictable is the reply by Murray’s leader, Communist Party of Britain (CPB) General Secretary Robert Griffiths who describes Cohen’s article as “shoddy McCarthyite stereotyping”.

For those who haven’t followed this one, Murray is a CPB member and well-known on the left as being an old-style pro-Soviet communist – a perception he somewhat added to with a column in the Morning Star to mark the occassion of Stalin’s 120th birthday.

Now it should hardly be surprising that Murray’s nostalgia should be pointed out by journalists at a time when he was leading a mass movement against the war in Iraq – in fact I was amazed it took the media so long to point that out. Nor did Cohen do anything other than observe that Murray’s position in the Stop the War movement meant “a living fossil from the age of European dictators was heading the biggest protest of the new century.”

Is a writer calling an open communist a communist, McCarthyism? I don’t think so. I mean it is hardly as though Murray has sought to hide his politics and been ‘outed’ by Cohen. After all in the, now infamous, Morning Star article Murray wrote the following:

“If you believe that the worst crimes visited on humanity this century, from colonialism to Hiroshima and from concentration camps to mass poverty and unemployment have been caused by imperialism, then [Stalin’s birthday] might at least be a moment to ponder why the authors of those crimes and their hack propagandists abominate the name of Stalin beyond all others. It was, after all, Stalin’s best-known critic, Nikita Kruschov, who remarked in 1956 that `against imperialists, we are all Stalinists’ “

Now if you write those words as leader of a ‘peace movement’ you really can’t complain when the media repeat your views. Why don’t the CPB stop whining and get on with the job of convincing us that “we are all Stalinists” – that would be much more fun.