maandag, oktober 04, 2004

Marc Cooper galloping off to Hitchenstan

Louis Proyect, the moderator of the superb Marxist mailing list, Marxmail (long a site for open discussion of Marxist politics amongst socialists of different tendencies and traditions while most organised socialist organisations remain inexplicably luddite towards or politically suspicious of listservs and the like), has recently started his own blog, Unrepentent Marxist. In his latest post, concerning the backing of John Kerry by 'broad layers' of the US left, he writes:

'If you had told me three years or so ago that broad layers of the US left would be backing a pro-war candidate in the 2004 elections, I never would have believed it.'

I think this is unfairly pessimistic. The calculus that liberals and many on the left in the US have made may not be one that I agree with - Kerry is openly pro-war and is a corporate DLC Democrat in every other capacity, as I have said before - but I think Proyect here, and others on the Left who have clear-headedly backed Nader and worked like Stakhanovites to campaign for their candidate despite the dirty tricks and shady legal manoeuvrings of the Dems, could fall into a pit of bitterness and despondency if they believe that the magnificent anti-globalisation movement born in Seattle, which metamorphosed into a robust anti-war movement are now 'backing' a pro-war candidate. They are not. They are backing the least bad of the possible options. The lesser-evilism argument is a difficult one to defeat. The left is not pro-war, it's anti-Bush.

It may not be a terribly evolved politic, but it is far from surprising, and it's not the end of the world. The global justice/anti-war movement hasn't gone anywhere, and if we compare it to the last major upturn in struggle - the events of 1968 or thereabouts - we see that the movement then had largely died off by the early to mid seventies, while today, depending on how you celebrate the birthday of the altermondialistes, we're more or less nearly five years going and getting stronger.


A quite good related point Proyect makes is the frustration he has with the pro-war left - and he doesn't just mean Hitch.

'An important element of this is the susceptibility of many liberals and some radicals to describe the Iraqi resistance as Islamo-fascists, etc. Some of the people heaping such abuse were veterans of the Vietnam era radicalization, who apparently forgot how the Vietnamese revolutionaries were described at the time. They were linked to Joseph Stalin and at least in the pages of Dissent Magazine an anti-war demonstration was interpreted as endorsement of the Gulags.'

Well said, Louis. If it was possible for Hitchens and other soixante-huitards once upon a time to support the Stalinist Ho Chi Minh against the US in Vietnam, despite all the then well-known horrors of Stalinist states elsewhere - indeed in the white heat of May 68, the Soviets were crushing the Prague Spring - then it should be as easy today to see who the main enemy is.

'While somebody like Christopher Hitchens exhibits this tendency in its full hothouse flowering, you find others along the liberal-left spectrum moving inexorably in the same direction. In today's edition of marccooper.com, we find the one-time aide to Salvador Allende enthusing over an article by one Ahmed S. Hashim in the leftish Boston Review that "paints a vivid and rather chilling picture of the armed opposition to the U.S. occupation." This has been part of a recent propaganda spasm by people like Frank Smyth, Doug Ireland and Cooper to smear principled anti-war efforts as tantamount to raising money for the Ku Klux Klan or something.'

Again, however, I would note that Nation writer Marc Cooper has not just crossed the Rubicon in terms of the Iraqi resistance, he has also written extensivelyon the supposed authoritarian tendencies of Hugo Chavez, berating the left for 'brainlessly' following the chubby Venezuelan in the red beret. If the 'one-time aide to Salvador Allende' has travelled so far to the right as to support the death-squad-linked anti-Chavistas, is it at all surprising that he is a rabid Hitchenite when it comes to Iraq?

The best that can still be said for Cooper is that he at least hasn't endorsed Bush, unlike Hitchens.

Proyect shouldn't get so depressed. The Coopers and Hitchens of the world today hold the identical position, vis-à-vis the left, that the CIA-patronised habitués of Dissent magazine he mentioned did in the sixties. But it is not only the war on which they are wrong. From the Zapatistas, through the revival of industrial struggle, to the anti-globalisation movement - every major development of the left in the last ten years has passed these sorts by. They are tiny and largely, apart from Hitch, uninfluential. The anti-war movement is massive and strappingly internationalist, (admittedly somewhat irregularly) producing some of the largest demonstrations in the history of the left.

We are - as has often been said before - many. They are few.