From the Vaults: Wall Street Journal, 1996

Lenni Brenner is a Trotskyist who is best known for his travesty, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators: A Reappraisal. While this book has been thoroughly discredited, Noontide Press, a publishing house for neo-Nazis and  Holocaust deniers, were clearly impressed as they viewed it worthy for republishing.

In his younger days Brenner was known as Lenny Glaser. The lack of a college education did not prevent him from standing on a street corner near the Berkeley campus arguing politics. He even lectured on “the virtues of marijuana.” Michael Rossman notes that while Glaser was telling people that marijuana would not make them crazy, many of those that saw him in action looked away as they thought that he was crazy. Glaser was caught at least twice by the police in possession of the drug, on one occasion when he wandering around quite intoxicated. Ultimately he spent thirty-nine months in prison in relation to these and other offences.

He is proud of his discussions in prison with Huey P. Newton, a leader of the Black Panthers, and for later working for a number of years with Stokely Carmichael, another Black Panther leader. The Black Panthers were notorious for murder, extortion and drug racketeering.

When I once previously commented on this site noting some of this, Brenner sent me an abusive email where he positively compared himself both to Abraham Lincoln and to William Shakespeare, the latter he referred to as “Billy Shakespeare.”

In 1996, this self-styled Trotskyist wrote to the most revolutionary of all newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, demanding that British troops leave Northern Ireland. I copy below that letter and the responses that the Wall Street Journal subsequently published:

Who’s the Real Villain in Northern Ireland?

Wall Street Journal,

February 23, 1996

Your Feb. 13 editorial “The IRA’s Semtex Politics” takes as given the British ground rules as to what constitutes “submitting one’s politics to the judgment of voters.”

Prime Minister John Major calls for an election in the six counties of Northern Ireland before all-party talks. But every politically literate person knows that London set up its six-county statelet in the 1920s by including four counties with an overwhelmingly unionist Protestant majority, and then arbitrarily adding two Catholic nationalist counties with smaller populations that would always be outvoted by the loyalists.

By American standards this was a religious gerrymander. Ireland is an island with all its people speaking English. By every reasonable definition there is only one nationality on that island. Can the Journal seriously pretend that Britain had the right to separate a section of an island that London treated as one entity for centuries from the rest of the island? And then insist in perpetuity that everyone run in elections in an arrangement arbitrarily created to give Britain’s notoriously bigoted sectarian supporters a perpetual majority?

Further: there are no Marquis of Queensbury rules to obey while liberating your country or a part of it. Algerian nationalists terrorized French civilian colonists and won, and today even you would admit that the French, not the terrorists, were the prime villains of that piece.

If all things are lawful in liberation struggles, not all things are expedient. And it is impossible to support the IRA’s return to its self-isolating militarism. But IRA stupidity does not legitimatize Britain’s presence in Ireland. All friends of liberty remain united in demanding the immediate withdrawal of all British troops from every inch of Irish soil, without specious elections, or unnecessary talks beforehand.

Lenni Brenner,
New York

Wall Street Journal,

March 13, 1996

Correspondent Lenni Brenner displays the sympathy for terrorism and superficial understanding of the Northern Ireland political situation that unfortunately characterizes much US opinion on the subject, and which was refreshingly absent from your Feb. 13 editorial “The IRA’s Semtex Politics.”

Mr. Brenner appears to be saying that British troops should immediately leave Northern Ireland, and the country’s political future should be determined by a vote of the entire populace. To implement this as an immediate solution to centuries-old enmities would surely be a recipe for civil war on a Bosnian scale, as the Protestant majority of the North, suddenly a minority in a united Ireland, arms itself against the perceived threat to its existence.

Mr. Brenner’s next assertion – “there are no… Queensbury rules to obey while liberating your country” – is astounding. How can one begin to list the ways in which this kind of statement is dangerous and wrong? That the end should not justify the means? That stable and just societies cannot be built on the lives of innocents? (Look at Algeria, cited by Mr. Brenner as an example for justifiable terrorism.) That the majority in Northern Ireland have no wish to be “liberated,” and the majority in Eire have no wish to be saddled with the economic cost and social disruption of a forced unification? That Sinn Fein is a small minority party even in the South?

Intractable conflicts such as Northern Ireland need vision, clarity of thought, and humanity by all sides; not muddle-headed romanticism and quick fixes.

John Peters,

Marietta, Ga.

Mr. Brenner states: “By every reasonable definition there is only one nationality on that island.” It would be hard to construct a sentence containing more falsehood. There are five million people native to the island of Ireland. Four million of them passionately believe themselves Irish by nationality. The remaining one million, with equal passion, consider themselves British. This is the very meat and essence of the Irish problem. Not to know it – or to know it but willfully ignore it – is to disqualify oneself as a serious (even a serious amateur) commentator on Ireland. No Irish person would say such an idiotic thing; no respectable Irish newspaper would print it – even, I think, in a letters column.

Mr. Brenner’s conscience is as empty as his reasoning. His implicit assertion that “all things are lawful in liberation struggles” is disgusting. It is perfect nihilism. All things, Mr. Brenner? The rape of infants? Biological warfare? All things? Mr. Brenner raises the example of Algeria to justify his thesis. Does he know anything about the subsequent history of that country?

Giles Mathews,

New York