UK Politics

Here Comes the New Creed

Seumus Milne pens an apologia for the non-Enlightenment defending Left in today’s Guardian.

Here’s the first example of how he rationalises his support for the most backward looking religious obscurantists and their struggle against democracy and secularism in Iraq and elsewhere:

But many of the conditions that gave rise to earlier leftwing hostility to religion have eroded, as religion itself has declined in Europe and elsewhere. The bonds between religious institutions and ruling elites have been weakened, while the radical strands within religion – which were always present, not least in the core religious texts themselves – have grown stronger, typified by the egalitarian Christian liberation theology movement. Even the most established religious authorities have become sharply critical of the global system, challenging inequality and western military aggression. During the 1990s the Pope, who played such a central role in the rollback of communism, was one of the few international figures who could be heard speaking out against the new capitalist order. Religion cannot but find itself in conflict with the demands of an ever more voracious capitalism to dominate social and personal life, which religion has traditionally seen as its own sphere of influence.

Shorter Milne: The Pope and the Mullahs are where the anti-capitalist action is these days so that’s one reason for what remains of the Left to get into bed with them.

Hmmm. Most of these words are debatable and since I don’t have time I’ll leave the fun for the comments box.

For his second reason Milne cites the honorouble leftwing tradition of solidarity:

For the secular left – which is about social justice and solidarity if it is about anything – not to have stood with British Muslims over Islamophobia or the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq would have been the real betrayal.

In effect he’s saying that all – or a majority – of British Muslims opposed the removal of the Taliban and Saddam regimes, and that because they did so then the Left had to automatically side with them because Muslims in Britain are an oppressed group.

Hmmmm, again. More questionable assumptions than you can shake a stick at.

No mention of the secular Left in Afghanistan or Iraq who had suffered terribly under both regimes. Not a peep about Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds. Not a word either about the millions of women who were imprisoned in their own homes. Because “the Muslims” were opposed to ridding the world of the Taliban or Saddam we should be too. Let’s try to forget the inconvenient stonings, mass murders and attempts to intimidate and destroy minority races and cultures in both places.

Try his last paragraph for the saddest surrender to political pessimism though:

Outright opposition to religion was important in its time. But to fetishise traditional secularism in our time is to fail to understand its changing social meaning. Like nationalism, religion can face either way, playing a progressive or reactionary role. The crucial struggle is now within religion rather than against it.

You read it right. Milne is admitting something we long suspected was true. That his branch of the Left – the “anti-Imperialists” have thrown in the towel as far as secularism is concerned and consider inter-religious arguments more “crucial” than those who consider Enlightenment ideas as the starting point in the battle to rid the world of the poverty and superstition that still disfigures and scars it.

Seminary or science ? I’ll take the latter. Unlike religion it doesn’t start from the asssumption that the poor are always with us.