All of Norm Geras’s posts are worth reading, of course, but don’t miss this one. Its moral clarity is worthy of Orwell:
A friend asked me the other day whether I thought the divisions on the left could be overcome. The context made it clear that it was the divisions which opened up after September 11 2001 – in response to the events of that day itself, then over the invasion of Afghanistan that followed, and over the war on terror, and over the war in Iraq – to which the question was referring…
…To be blunt about it, there are some current divisions on the left which I wouldn’t want to see overcome, so long as the kind of views they divide me from continue to flourish. What sort of views am I talking about? Well, as a sample: those which in reaction to 9/11 embodied some version of comeuppance-talk or apologetic evasion; those which represent ways of being ‘understanding’ about the terrorist murder of civilians and/or think that this is all the fault of the West; those claiming that there is no serious threat of terrorism; those according to which Israel has no right to exist and/or according to which Israel is to blame for everything that happens in the Middle East, including the murder of its own people; those which at the onset of the Iraq war preferred a reverse for American power, as had to mean a triumph for Saddam Hussein and his regime, and those according to which we shouldn’t be too choosy as to methods in supporting the Iraqi so-called ‘resistance’; more generally, those which in pursuit of an at-all-costs anti-imperialism, often indistinguishable from anti-Americanism, are evasive if not downright apologetic about openly anti-democratic forces so long as these can be presented in some sort of anti-imperialist guise.
I don’t wish to be united with views of this sort, or the wider political tendencies of which they are an expression. I want to be divided from them.
Are there not, then, useful areas of common endeavour and debate to be engaged in, even across some of the current divisions of political opinion and judgement within the left? Of course there are. For the viewpoints I have characterized above do not make up the entirety of the left. To use the disagreements over the Iraq war here as a convenient index: there was a division between those of us who supported the liberation of Iraq and those who opposed the war whose putative aim it was, in which division what was at issue were different, and conscientious, assessments of prevailing circumstance and likely outcome, rather than any of the apologetic, anti-democratic and other negative impulses I have set out above. Across this sort of division there is no reason why key questions of the contemporary world cannot be jointly and fruitfully engaged. There is every reason why they should be.
I think everything Norm writes here is verified on a daily basis in our comments boxes.
The divisions to which Norm’s friend referred existed before 9/11, but it took the events of that day to clarify them. In fact those events– and the various reactions to them– pushed some leftists from one camp to another, and pushed others out of the Left entirely. And while I can’t help feeling that these ex-leftists-turned-Bush-voters have gone over to the “dark side,” I can in some fashion understand what drove them there.
On the other hand, when I look at the website of an outfit like the “antiwar” coalition International ANSWER, I feel not the slightest twinge of old-fashioned solidarity. My principal reaction is: Who are these strange, deluded people? Needless to say, despite my many differences with George W. Bush, I won’t be joining their “counter-inaugural.”
Aside from the label we are fighting over, do we really have anything in common? Did we ever?