I have been looking for the (free) full version of Christopher Hitchens’ interview in Salon magazine which I was told was one of the clearest explanations of his critique of the US left. I have finally found it – “The Left’s Odd Man Out – well, well worth a read indeed.
I have to say Hitchens hits the mark pretty much throughout. I am no expert on the US left but frankly his points apply just as much to the UK Left who showed a total lack of interest in mass murder in the Balkans, clerical fascism in Afghanistan and human rights in Iraq or Kurdistan because they were afraid to maybe find themselves on the same side as people who they disagree with about other issues.
After 9-11 some like the appalling Socialist Workers Party , who are the biggest group on the so-called radical left in the UK, even refused to condemn the terror attacks. “That is what the imperialists want us to do,” they said. Presumably they wouldn’t stop someone mugging an old woman in the street because “that is what the police want us to do”?
The attitude of some on the left to that atrocity at first angered me and then embarassed me. I remember sat in a traffic jam in Italy on September 13 listening to a phone-in show on the left-wing Radio Populare as a series of listeners began their calls with “Of course it was terrible what happened with the World Trade Centre, but look at American foreign policy”. It reminded me of people who say “I am not a racist but…” you hear those first words and you know what is coming.
Thankfully an old woman rang in and put these loons to rights – “the fascists opposed US foreign policy did we call for no action against them?”
In fact it has got worse in Britain. The SWP lead the Stop The War Coalition, originally set up to oppose any attempt to take out the Taliban and al-Quada but now it seems a permanent committee against any attempt to deal with dictatorship and reaction. Their last ‘anti-war’ march saw them team-up with the Muslim Association of Britain, which openly declares itself as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic-fundamentalist party in the Arab world.
There has been the pathetic sight of Islamic clerics leading the call to prayer while sharing platforms with various left speakers. Islamic fundamentalists, who have no qualms about supporting those who have murdered and tortured socialists and communists around the world, have turned out to hurl anti-semitism and crude anti-Americanism with barely a whimper of protest from the left. Are these people really against war? Is blowing up schoolkids on a bus not an act of war?
Can you imagine if a Christian Fundamentalists Against the War turned out yelling anti-jewish and anti-Islamic slogans in the centre of London? To a secular socialist there shouldn’t be the slightest difference – both are utterly reactionary and stand against everything socialists should believe in.
And now we have the Iraq situation. I really am not sure what these ultra-left groups are protesting about at the moment. Are they seriously against sending UN weapons inspectors to see what arsenal this scumbag has developed? That is all that has happened so far and with the support of the world.
Of course no-one on the left would support carpet bombing Baghdad and no-one would want to see Saddam replaced with another military dictator. But as believers in human rights, justice and social progress I would assume all socialists would like to see the bastard out and replaced with a popularly elected government. I can’t see how any socialist could oppose that?
If the Iraqi opposition can be given a hand in liberating their country then great. If it has a destablising effect on other countries, like Saudia Arabia then even better – socialists want the transformation of societies, we like destablising things – those who are against destablising or regime change are called conservatives even if they are waving red flags.
If the left wants to make a difference, if the left really cares about Iraqi people, it should be urging their governments to work as closely as possible with the Iraqi and Kurdish opposition and seek to give real practical support to them. That is the real way to avoid a ‘cowboy solution’ in Iraq.