The Anti-totalitarian or anti-fascist left seems to be waning, after-all it is a decades old movement which many see as antiquated in modern times. However, I firmly believe it should never have gone missing, and it needs a populist revival. You may rightly question why I despair at the current state of much of the left movement. It squeals like a pig at the mention of Tony Blair’s name, and takes up much of its time fighting against interventions to stop brutal dictators from massacring their own people. This is particularly among the anti war movement, specifically the ‘stop the war coalition’. It lauds the need for democracy and rights, but only for us. If democracy doesn’t come immediately to a nation, with freedom and superb living standards with no casualties, then the anti war movement will be there stinging those who tried to bring a better outcome along. They forget of course that the fight for western democracy was not a bloodless affair.
For too long many left wing writers have gotten away with supporting, or at least not going after rotten apples. One example I can give is Owen Jones. He’s the master of the Left Wing take down. His book ‘The Establishment and How They Get Away With It’ is a vitriolic polemic which attempts to expose the right wing ‘establishment’ and its stranglehold on political discourse. He takes on this task with admirable exuberance, slashing through opponents with a precise sentence, or a well placed fact. However, this doesn’t extend to people on the pro totalitarian left such as George Galloway.
In his 2013 Independent article he claims we need to learn from George Galloway for his ‘plain speaking’. If Plain speaking is praising the presidency of Bashar Al Assad, or supporting former Iranian President Ahmadinejad, and of course his love in for the former Genocidal, torturer, murderous leader of Iraq then I’m not so sure I would praise such things. Unlike in his article, it isn’t because Galloway has supposedly said some kind things about dodgy characters, it’s because his support for regimes who oppress around the world that stomaching him is a problem for all those who aren’t indifferent about human rights across the world. Indeed Jones spoke in a debate in 2013, on the Iraq war, he advanced the argument that not only were the results bad, but the intention in Iraq was nightmare ish from the start. Of course getting rid of Saddam the lovable dictator was a bad move for human rights…
Maajid Nawaz, Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, Paul Berman, the late Christopher Hitchens and many others formed a progressive coalition, of speaking up for those who cannot always speak for themselves. Not all of these writers are cheerleaders for the wars that have taken place. Indeed Maajid Nawaz has vigorously opposed the iraq war and the actions that followed it. However, Majid’s work, from his well written biography ‘Radical’ (which i cannot recommend highly enough), his numerous speeches, and well informed articles show the left what they seem to be blind to. That minorities can be discriminatory as well. Indeed, Reza Aslan recently wrote a piece displaying similar characteristics on the legalization of Gay marriage in the United States. This, would seem obvious, however for too long we have denied agency to those who undoubtedly do have it.
Nick Cohen’s laudable,and passionate book ‘What’s Left’ describes what has gone so wrong with the left’s argument in one passage. He talks about the Bali bar bombings by Al-Qaeda “Osama Bin Laden did give a reason, but it wasn’t the right one. He said Australians died because Australia was anti-imperialist, rather than an imperialist power, whose troops had reversed the annexation of (largely catholic) East Timor by (largely Muslim) Indonesia, which had so angered Noam Chomsky twenty-five years before. Australia had taken back conquered Islamic land, therefore Australians must die. ”
This self loathing of the left had led to many counting up the Iraqi dead by suicide bombs, and blaming us for their deaths. If only we hadn’t touched a supposedly secular dictatorship, then the islamist extremists wouldn’t have started bombing funeral processions and UN headquarters. If only we hadn’t decided to eventually guarantee independence to East Timor, then that bombing may not have taken place. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out, this isn’t anti imperialism, it’s an imperialist project calling for the restoration of a lost empire which is the Caliphate. We are being masochists, offered up to us by sadists. Even now, sections of the left are attributing the actions of ISIS to the west. It seems there is nothing that we are not to blame for, and of course those groups by that analysis become almost blameless, as if they had no other alternative.
It seems to me, that much of the left lives in denial. They continue to argue that we cannot abide by human rights abuses, but we cannot impose sanctions, for they harm the citizens already being subjugated. We cannot militarily intervene, because it smacks of imperialism, even when intervening for humanitarian purposes. Some on the left want change, but have no alternative to how to get it. Chile with General Pinochet, and the current Chinese regime proves that globalization and a free market economy, is no guarantee of human rights. The UN has proven itself in Rwanda, and in the Balkans to be so toothless it led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents. The left offers a Hobbesian vision of a world where Westphalian sovereignty is the ultimate guarantee for regimes which decided to commit massacres, human rights abuses, and flagrant violations of human dignity. That vision must be challenged, that there is an alternative. That sovereignty does not and should not give you protections against crimes against humanity. That we can admit that we’ve made mistakes in supporting evil regimes, but to continue in those mistakes would be an even more grave state of affairs. The left offers no vision, merely criticism, and this must be challenged.