War etc

Moving Rightwards?

Marc Mulholland’s often interesting Daily Moiders is marking it’s 100th edition today.

Marc pops up in our comments box from time to time and generally is quite critical of the views expressed here or at least the way we express them.

I have often wondered whether those disagreements actually reflect one of the oft-unspoken divisions within blogs – between the academic writers with their detailed explanations of the process of thought and those of us who take a more blunt and provocative journalistic approach.

But perhaps not….

Today’s edition says: It seems to me that Blogs are dominated by conservatives or right-wing libertarians. Even left-wing blogs are usually run by ‘renegades’. In particular, the war in Iraq seems to have catalysed a shift to the right on the part of a whole generation of leftists. It has been the Hungary ‘56 or the anti-Communist Revolutions of 1989 for a swathe of thirty-somethings.

Leftists usually move right under the guise of discovering the distance of ex-comrades from the true values of ‘secular socialism’. There is also an understandable desire to engage with practical power politics. Here’s a certain parallel, I think, with the Trotskyist Left Oppositionists of the 1920s in the Soviet Union. They capitulated to Stalin en masse in the late 1920s when he launched his collectivisation and industrialisation revolution from above. The means may have been barbaric and the regime repulsive, but at least the core program of the left was being carried through.

Leftist pro-war enthusiasts are now similarly attracted to the self-proclaimed revolutionary messianism of Bush and his determination to export democracy on the point of a bayonet. Bush, of course, is no Stalin, nor is democracy, even in a vehemently free market guise, equivalent to the social engineering of Stalinist construction. But the pro-war marxistant bloggers may rue in time hitching their cart to the praetorians of US unilateralism. More likely, they’ll become true-blue adherents of the interminable War on Terror, just as previous generations became Cold Warriors.

Interesting. I could be being entirely presumptious but I think there is reason to suspect that thirtysomethings here at Harry’s Place might be being referred to. Either way, the points Marc raises are certainly ones which others have made as a criticism of my stance over the past few years so they are worth looking at.

I concur with Marc about the similarities of today’s situation with 1956 and the effect the Hungarian revolution had on those in the Communist Party and wider left in Britain.

Back in 1956 there were people on the left who sided with the forces of revolutionary democracy in Hungary and those who allied themselves with the Soviet counter-revolutionaries. Today the same split is evident between the supporters of the armed overthrow of Saddam and the aspirations of Iraqi democrats and those who back the counter-revolutionaries. Just as in 1956 there is no love lost between the two camps.

I just hope that the supporters of the Iraqi counter-revolutionaries fade from the political scene as quickly as those who backed Krushchev against Imre Nagy.

But as for the Bush comments – who is hitching their cart to Bush or US unilateralism? Rather I think the question raised here has been – if the President of the US calls for a democratic revolution in the Middle East and elsewhere, should the left oppose such an idea or actually try and hold him to his words?

I certainly wouldn’t subscribe to a universal strategy of exporting democracy on the point of a bayonet but if the US really is going to back democratic movements rather than corrupt dictatorships in the Middle East then all well and good – who on the democratic left could seriously oppose such a strategy?

Whether or not the US is really going to do this or if Bush is just involved in revolutionary-sounding phrasemongering, remains to be seen of course.

But what does puzzle me is Marc’s claim that the war in Iraq “seems to have catalysed a shift to the right on the part of a whole generation of leftists”. He is not of course alone in making such an observation – I have lost count of the number of people who have told me how much I have “moved to the right” since the start of the debate over Iraq.

Without wishing to get into a debate about the meaning of the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’, it seems to me there has been a split between the conservative (oppositionalist, nihilist) left and the radical (interventionist) left. As many pro-war leftists have pointed out – support for the war was entirely consistent with their democratic, anti-fascist and internationalist outlook. So where is the shift to the right? Rather is it not those who argue against ‘interfering’ in Iraq and elsewhere who have become conservative?

What does happen at times like ’56 and now (and which is a real shift) is that people who once considered themselves to be part of the same political environment realise that is no longer the case.

There is certainly some bitterness between the pro and anti war left but surely this is more than the usual infighting on the left.

The question is: Are the SWP, CPB et al simply misguided ‘comrades’?

I no longer think so. We are fighting for different things, supporting different sides in a struggle.

After all how can the supporters of Saddam’s Fedayeen ‘resistance’ be considered our comrades?