The Left

Left conservatism

A long interview with Christopher Hitchens in the Common Review which includes a passage which sums things up pretty well for those of us who have fallen out with the rest of the left in the past few years:

Well, it’s to do with left conservatism. It’s been spreading like a weed over the last couple of decades. One’s task in the 1970s and 1980s was reasonably simple—you could say that the Cold War was a danger in and of itself without taking a side in it; and that the arms race was a danger in and of itself, as a counterpart to the Cold War, and needed to be criticized; and that, in the meantime, certain important causes, such as the Polish Workers Movement, or the African National Congress, or the people of El Salvador, were good causes in their own right. There were some on the left who took a pro-Warsaw Pact view. But essentially you were with or on the left. What you were doing was with the left.

Once the Cold War was over, there was a recrudescence of one-party totalitarianism and of one-god authoritarianism—the decision by Saddam Hussein to abolish the existence of a neighboring state, and of Slobodan Milosevic to go from Yugo-Communism to National Socialism, an ethnically pure Serbo-nationalist fascist state with Christian Orthodox support. Then you found that, oddly enough, what you were doing was without the left. On the whole, the left wanted to sit that out. Let’s not get involved. These could be quagmires. Another Vietnam. I didn’t think we could really have the Muslim population of Europe put to the sword in public. Many felt, if you do that, you’re getting involved in the Balkans, and who knows what that might entail?

……And then, most depressingly, after September 11, 2001, you defined your position until it was not just with sometimes, or without sometimes, but actually against quite a bit of the left—people who thought jihadism was in some way an expression of anti-imperialism. There was the reflexive view that somehow the jihadists must represent a grievance or protest against poverty or oppression. Everybody knows what the grievances of the jihadists arethey’re very easy to identify. They grieve for the loss of the caliphate. They’re not anti-imperialists—they’re pro-imperialists. There’s an empire they lost and want back.

They’re offended—deeply, grievously offended—by the sight of an undraped woman or the existence of a Shiite Muslim, or a Christian, or a Jew. These things they consider to be offensive. They believe God gives them the right to erase these things. Let’s not understate the fact that they do have deep-seated grievances. But to hear this ventriloquized on the left as some sort of perverse populism was too much for me.