Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

Let's see if I can write this post a second time

I haven't yet heard how the Galloway/Hitchens debate went in any great detail, but Greg Palast, as always has something very sensible to say about it, and how they are in many senses evil twins of each other.

The plague on both your houses opposition to the war needs to stick together, especially given the tendency of parts of the anti-war Left to regard any nuance in one's opposition as evidence of an imminent tendency to defect to the camp of the pro-war liberals, and then the Right.

Some of what follows is ill-tempered - I have been reading, and listening to, a lot of stupidity over the last few weeks, and my patience has worn thin. All the more so because my computer ate my first draft.

The infatuation of much of the Left with militant reactionary Islam and the defection of parts of it to support for an unjustifiable American war effort seems to me to be largely motivated by the same habit of power-worship. Everyone quotes Orwell uncritically, and there is a lot about him I don't like, but I do tend to agree with him that this habit has more to do with psychopathology than principle.

One of the defining features of my political evolution was reading Lenin, and not agreeing. Another was attending a meeting in my first term at University and hearing one of the comrades muse, aloud, not especially humourously, that what we needed was a proper Student's Union. A Union where you took Scabs and sawed their legs off.

I do notice, both among leftwingers and defected former comrades, a tendency to what I will call Atrocity Envy. We may be effete bourgeois playing at revolution and reaction, but there are people out there who agree with us and play the game properly. With real blood and severed limbs and everything.

One argument which cropped up in my friend's correspondence was that, US hegemony being the worst thing in the world, it is improper and a frivolous luxury to criticize any group fighting it.

You wouldn't criticize Stalin in 1942, this argument goes, or the Viet Cong in 1970.

Except I would, and it would be correct to do so. Stalin nearly lost the war against Fascism through paranoia, bloodthirstiness and folly. He cripped the Red Army in 1938 by purging and executing most of its officer class. He refused to believe that the Nazis were about to invade in spite of solid intel from his own people and the West. He descended into a blind funk for the crucial first days of the war and effectively paralyzed a system which depended on his autocratic rule.

His rule was so dreadful before, during and after the war, that many Russians suffered briefly the delusion that the Nazis could not be worse.

My support in 1942 would have been for the Russian people and only secondarily for the ghastly regime.

Also, if in 1942, the Nazis are so totally the worst thing possible that you are not allowed to criticize Stalin, you cannot presumably criticize the racist imperialist Churchill either. Or Roosevelt, whose long-term objectives included creating the US hegemony that is now the worst thing in the world.

Luckily Churchill lost the 45 election, something that could not happen to Stalin.

In 1950 or so, the worst thing in the world was whichever nuclear power was most likely to start an atomic war, which was probably Stalin, actually. Not because Truman was Mr Nice - he had after all already used nukes twice - but because his party needed to win elections, whereas Stalin was dying and in a hurry. We do need to remember that Stalin was only distracted by death from wanting to kill Russia's Jews. Would this have been OK because he opposed US hegemony? Of course not.

If, in the 1970s, you cannot criticize the VC, you cannot criticize the Khmer Rouge either. And indeed much of the Left took a long time to accept that the stories of killing fields were not just evil propaganda.

I remember quarrelling with Fiona McTaggart on just this point. And then quarreling again with her twenty years later over her ruthless Blairism. This is not a digression - see my remarks above about power worship.

A crucial factor in the 1970s was the US anti-war movement. One of the reasons why the US gave up the war in South-East Asia was public opinion, and this is actually the thing most likely to end the war in Iraq.

America is not just the CIA organizing Latin American torturers to kill nuns and the oil companies wrecking the planet for profit, or thick preppies signing death warrants, and corrupt preachers turning Christianity into a mixture of game show and hate speech. It is all of those things, but it is also the nuns who went to their deaths in solidarity with the poor of the world, and large parts of the environmentalist movement, and lawyers working themselves to exhaustion to empty death row, and people leading quiet good lives and taking in refugees and raising money for the poor of the world.

Those people on the Left who just dismiss all Americans of any stamp save their own sect as Yankee scum are ignoring the better America of the anti-war movement, and of the Civil Rights movement, and the Women's and Gay Liberation movements.

Those people on the Left who regard anti-racism and gender equality and sexual tolerance as irrelevancies are not worth talking to anyway.

And of course one of the attractions of an alliance with fundamentalist Islam is that it allows parts of the Left to play with a sexism and heterosexism that they never entirely abandoned, and to flirt with paranoid anti-semitism.
( Conspiracy theories about the involvement of Mossad in 9/11 are not signing up for belief in the Protocols, but they are the next best thing.)

I will return to this theme over the next few days - exhaustion is creeping up on me.

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