With my last post in mind – about how useless Hamas is as a mascot for the anti-imperialists – this serendipitous piece from Alan Johnson of Democratiya sums up how and why the post-Left (aka kitsch Left, rococo Left) is wrong.
The Euston manifesto was a warning cry. Post-leftists, we said, were living in what Paul Berman called “foggy zones of half-believed beliefs, freed of any responsibility to subject any given opinion to the simplest of common-sense tests”.
What were these half-believed beliefs?
A demented “anti-zionism”. Paul Berman observed:
“During the last two or three years, large publics in western Europe and even in the United States have taken up the view that, if extremist political movements have swept across large swaths of the Muslim world, and if Ba’athists and radical Islamists have slaughtered literally millions of people during these last years, and then have ended up at war with the United States, Israel and its crimes must ultimately be to blame. And if America has been drawn into war in Iraq, it is because President Bush’s second-level foreign policy advisers include a few Jews (though all of his top level advisers are Protestants), and these second-level figures have manipulated everyone else to the bidding of Ariel Sharon.”
Anti-Americanism. A lunatic book like Thierry Meyssan’s Le 11 Septembre 2001, l’Effroyable Imposture (translated into English as 9/11: The Big Lie) – was given respectful attention in Le Monde Diplomatique and sold 200,000 copies in France within one month of publication. The dinner party talk was that America “had it coming”. Anti-Americanism was becoming a “self-sustaining hatred” as Andre Glucksmann puts it, akin to the other grand hatreds – of women and of Jews.
Occidentalism and self-hatred. Whatever “they” do, it is “our” fault. We are the great satan and they are “the resistance”, so the worse their atrocity (decapitating aid workers, blowing up wedding parties, marketplaces, and mosques of the “wrong” sort, slaughtering election workers, assassinating elected MPs, hanging homosexuals, torturing trade unionists, flying airliners into buildings, using the mentally ill as suicide bombers, denying the Holocaust, threatening to “wipe Israel off the face of the Earth”, killing those who would teach girls, that sort of thing) the more starkly was revealed the depths of … our sin! Agency and moral responsibility lay with the west, so “they” could not really be held responsible. (“They” could not really come into focus at all.)
Albert Camus warned that a love of freedom and progress can become “weirdly inseparable from a morbid obsession with murder and suicide”. In the foggy zone of the post-left there is a new ease with violence. The urbane intellectual shouts “Victory to the Resistance!” The affluent middle-class anti-globalisation protestors chant “Martyrs not Murderers”. And John Pilger tells us we “can’t be choosy”.
Careless moral equivalencing that rots the ability to judge. Listen to leftwinger Ellen Willis. “Central to Bush’s outlook is a Christian fundamentalism as hostile to liberalism as Sayyid Qutb”. As hostile? Even the usually excellent Martin Bright has argued that ‘[Paul] Berman’s description of a paranoid ‘people of God’ convinced of its own righteousness, prepared to kill its enemies and sacrifice its own in pursuit of a realm of pure truth might just as easily apply to the United States as to its Ba’athist and Islamist foes.” Just as easily?
Along this road madness lay. The Euston manifesto set up a checkpoint and offered some alternative signposts.