Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What's Left?

The Left is a seating arrangement. Let's get over it. 225 years of ideological musical chairs has worn the fabric pretty thin. Today it's outworn to refer to Left and Right. Immediately below we have a short excerpt from wikipedia on "the Left." For a fuller and accessible treatment (not an endorsement of the book) of this topic one will likely find Simon Schama, Citizens available at any local library.

Following that entry we have selections from a piece by Paul Berman, a mock dialogue with a liberal "Leftist," on the war in Iraq. He makes the excellent point that those who say "fascist" usually have no idea what they mean.

It's our postion that Left and Right are meaningless terms today. There are progressive Modernists, those who work for universal Human rights and economic prosperity, and there are those who delve into the arcana of neo-feudalist Irrationality to find their paths to the past.

The Left, regardless of its past glories, is over. Today it is inseperable from fascism. The photo above, for those Leftists who don't know, is of VI Lenin. Yes, many who call themselves Leftists don't know who he is. What's Left?

The term "Left" was first used in the early days of French revolution. When the National Assembly first met, the reformers sat on the left side of the meeting hall, while supporters of monarchy and nobility sat on the right. Originally, it wasn't meant to be a political statement, but as the factions within the National Assembly formed, the label stuck.

Although it may seem ironic in terms of present-day usage, those originally on 'The Left' during the French Revolution were the largely bourgeois supporters of laissez-faire capitalism and free markets. As the electorate expanded beyond property-holders, these relatively wealthy elites found themselves clearly victorious over the old aristocracy and the remnants of feudalism, but newly opposed by the growing and increasingly organized and politicized workers and wage-earners. The "left" of 1789 would, in some ways be part of the present-day "right", liberal with regard to the rights of property and intellect, but not embracing notions of distributive justice, rights for organized labour , etc.

Paul Berman

"The left doesn't see because a lot of people, in their good-hearted effort to respect cultural differences, have concluded that Arabs must for inscrutable reasons of their own like to live under grotesque dictatorships and are not really capable of anything else, or won't be ready to do so for another five hundred years, and Arab liberals should be regarded as somehow inauthentic. Which is to say, a lot of people, swept along by their own high-minded principles of cultural tolerance, have ended up clinging to attitudes that can only be regarded as racist against Arabs.

"The old-fashioned left used to be universalist--used to think that everyone, all over the world, would some day want to live according to the same fundamental values, and ought to be helped to do so. They thought this was especially true for people in reasonably modern societies with universities, industries, and a sophisticated bureaucracy-societies like the one in Iraq. But no more! Today, people say, out of a spirit of egalitarian tolerance: Social democracy for Swedes! Tyranny for Arabs! And this is supposed to be a left-wing attitude? By the way, you don't hear much from the left about the non-Arabs in countries like Iraq, do you? The left, the real left, used to be the champion of minority populations-of people like the Kurds. No more! The left, my friend, has abandoned the values of the left-except for a few of us, of course."

"Another reason: A lot of people honestly believe that Israel's problems with the Palestinians represent something more than a miserable dispute over borders and recognition-that Israel's problems represent something huger, a uniquely diabolical aspect of Zionism, which explains the rage and humiliation felt by Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia. Which is to say, a lot of people have succumbed to anti-Semitic fantasies about the cosmic quality of Jewish crime and cannot get their minds to think about anything else.

"I mean, look at the discussions that go on even among people who call themselves the democratic left, the good left--a relentless harping on the sins of Israel, an obsessive harping, with very little said about the fascist-influenced movements that have caused hundreds of thousands and even millions of deaths in other parts of the Muslim world. The distortions are wild, if you stop to think about them. Look at some of our big, influential liberal magazines--one article after another about Israeli crimes and stupidities, and even a few statements in favor of abolishing Israel, and hardly anything about the sufferings of the Arabs in the rest of the world. And even less is said about the Arab liberals--our own comrades, who have been pretty much abandoned. What do you make of that, my friend? There's a name for that, a systematic distortion--what we Marxists, when we were Marxists, used to call ideology."

"The left doesn't see because a lot of people are, in any case, willfully blind to anti-Semitism in other cultures. They cannot get themselves to recognize the degree to which Nazi-like doctrines about the supernatural quality of Jewish evil have influenced mass political movements across large swaths of the world. It is 1943 right now in huge portions of the world-and people don't see it. And so, people simply cannot detect the fascist nature of all kinds of mass movements and political parties. In the Muslim world, especially."

"What a tragedy for the left-the worldwide left, this left of ours which, in failing to play much of a role in the antifascism of our own era, is right now committing a gigantic historic error. Not for the first time, my friend! And yet, if the left all over the world took up this particular struggle as its own, the whole nature of events in Iraq and throughout the region could be influenced in a very useful way, and Bush's many blunders could be rectified, and the struggle could be advanced."

My friend said, "I'm for the UN and international law, and I think you've become a traitor to the left. A neocon!"

I said, "I'm for overthrowing tyrants, and since when did overthrowing fascism become treason to the left?"

"But isn't George Bush himself a fascist, more or less? I mean--admit it!"

My own eyes widened. "You haven't the foggiest idea what fascism is," I said. "I always figured that a keen awareness of extreme oppression was the deepest trait of a left-wing heart. Mass graves, three hundred thousand missing Iraqis, a population crushed by thirty-five years of Baathist boots stomping on their faces--that is what fascism means! And you think that a few corrupt insider contracts with Bush's cronies at Halliburton and a bit of retrograde Bible-thumping and Bush's ridiculous tax cuts and his bonanzas for the super-rich are indistinguishable from that?-indistinguishable from fascism? From a politics of slaughter? Leftism is supposed to be a reality principle. Leftism is supposed to embody an ability to take in the big picture. The traitor to the left is you, my friend . . ."

But this made not the slightest sense to him, and there was nothing left to do but to hit each other over the head with our respective drinks.

Paul Berman is the author of Terror and Liberalism. His book The Passion of Joschka Fischer will come out in the spring.

We must, as progressive revolutionaries, find a new theoretical analysis of reality. Our rudderless drift is moving us unawares into fascism further by the day. It won't do to shriek about "rightwing religious bigots" everytime one points out the collapse of the Left. Those who do are not simply stupid, they are physically dangerous, and a major threat to the continuation of our revolutions of Modernity. If we progressive Modernist revolutionaries cannot find a better theory than drift, then we will be at fault and responsible for the chaos to come. We'll have lost our agenda to idiots and Irrationalist reactionaries.

We'll look more closely in our next post at who these enemies of the people are.


Nilk said...

I've obviously been hit with the stupid stick, but how on earth could anybody not recognise Lenin?

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

I agree, but you have to add to the absurdity of the whole notion of a political spectrum some other unpleasant, indeed sinister facts.
1) what is today called Left is a MANIPULATED body of public opinion, not only ignorant and confused as you rightly point out.
2) there is big money behind the "left" -- look at the Ford Foundation and its donations to various "human rights" and "peace" gangs. Wasn't Teresa Ketchup --the almost 1st lady [lady?] of the US-- noted for big donations to "left" causes?
3) psychological warfare techniques are used to manipulate this ignorant, confused body of public opinion --

On "human rights" and ngo fakery, also see:

Lastly, you're right about the "left" in what you say. I just wanted to complete the picture, as I see it. I don't know whether or not you saw my recent post on my blog about Bolsheviks and jihad and genocide. You did leave a comment recently. You're welcome to comment on my interpretation of bolsheviks and genocide, if you think I'm unfair.