When the Left is Not Right


Following on from Nick's post on an Ian Buruma piece in London's The Times critical of the power worship evident in the political left, I found another, earlier piece by Christopher Hitchens, also in The Times and also looking at the poverty of the left in the face of despotism. Hitchens' article introduces something called the Euston Manifesto, drawn up by leftists disgusted with the turn the left has taken.

Hitchens sees "three explanations for this horrid mutation of the left into a reactionary and nihilistic force": first, nostalgia for the old "People's Democracies" of the state socialist era; the fact that the "turbulent masses of the Islamic world are at once a reminder of the glory days of 'Third World' revolution, and a hasty substitute for the vanished proletariat of yore." And third, "that once you decide that American-led 'globalization' is the main enemy, then any revolt against it is better than none at all."

A third entry in this catalogue of revulsion for how the left has undermined its own humanist principles comes from yours truly, published in the Daily Star last week, motivated by Noam Chomsky's irresponsible, sickening romp through Beirut. Among other things, he embraced Hezbollah's goal of keeping its weapons until a regional peace settlement (what's the hurry, right?), against the demands of the United Nations and most political forces in Lebanon. I'm reminded of a similar tour through Lebanon by Norman Finkelstein five years ago, which led to this exchange Finkelstein posted on his site.

My focus in the latest Star piece is on how the Western left has made everything secondary to its antipathy for the Bush administration when it comes to the Middle East, even as many leftists in the region (including old communists, particularly in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq) have largely embraced social democracy, catapulting any lingering Leninism (or Stalinism) they may have had, while refusing to regard the United States (despite their doubts and criticism of the American administration) as the sole benchmark for all things evil. Their benchmark is now, simply, opposition to totalitarianism.