Clowns & Jokers

Stuck in the middle.... Left, right, centre. It's a mess out there.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Stop the World I Wanna Get Off

Harrys Place have noted that there's a good interview with Nick Cohen in this week's Time Out, by Jonathan Derbyshire (the left wing one, not the right wing one).

Ive just finished reading 'Saturday' belatedly (as it seems it was a best seller that everyone else has already read). I loved it.

The following kind of typifies why i feel 'blograge' as 'Tu' points out in a comment below (great word lol). The Left are battling away with their gremlins and its interesting to see where they are heading - neo liberalism apparently. Is the way to combat the issues we face to adopt on the Right the same finger pointing process as the old hard Left? Do you have to sit wholly in one political bubble? Im not so sure Left and Right are clearly defined at all and not because I cant stand Cameron.

I prefer Thatcher but I think Blair is alright ...I just cant stand his cronies or being lectured to on whats good for me and what i can and cant say and seeing Britain defined as fucking 'communities'? (Where's my community representative?! Muslims have one).....I dont think its bigotted to have a go at Islam. ...I dont think the EU is all bad and the cause of all our woes ... I support the war in Iraq... but think Bush is a useless communicator in a world that needs good ones. YES - the Left have been responsible for just so much bullshit about America and rounded on for it and YES the MSM more than anything else needs a boot up the arse. But the way we move forward on all this is crucial.

I feel a bit like Perowne in Saturday myself and im not sure why. At times ive felt quite ostracised by the Right for not having the kind of views that are generally the accepted norm with them eg a hatred of Europe (sorry 'EU' but you can hardly tell nowadays), 'feminist' issues that most women on the right discuss in a rational manner but which appear on blogs to get labelled as knee jerk 'feminazism'....

Other issues more widely out there that Ive mentioned below such as euro-phobe versus anti-americanism in the fight with terrorism...the incandescant rage that appears on most American blogs which would have you believe Europe is about to go under and that we should all head West and that turns a mirror outwards but never inwards. Bollocks!!!!!

Its just all so much NOISE now. If we remain polarised on the issue of islamic terrorism we will spend more time broadsiding each other than getting at the issues.

'In Ian McEwan’s novel ‘Saturday’, the protagonist Henry Perowne watches as demonstrators gather for the massive anti-war march of February 2003. He is struck, and slightly disturbed, by the levity of the crowd. ‘Everyone is thrilled to be out together on the streets – people are hugging themselves, it seems, as well as each other.’ The protestors may be right, Perowne muses: leaving Saddam’s sanguinary dictatorship in place might, just, be preferable to aerial bombing and invasion. But they ought to be ‘sombre’ in this view – it’s a dreadful moral calculus, after all, that weighs summary execution and ‘occasional genocide’ against the hazards of regime change.

The marchers’ placards and slogans catch Perowne’s eye too. Some belong to the Islamist group that helped to organise the march, an outfit, Perowne remembers, which believes that ‘apostasy from Islam was an offence punishable by death.’ Others bear the legend ‘Not in My Name’, a phrase whose ‘cloying self-regard suggests a bright new world of protest, with the fussy consumers of shampoos and soft drinks demanding to feel good, or nice.’

The journalist Nick Cohen quotes this passage in his new book ‘What’s Left?’ It used to be, Cohen writes, that the left marched in the name of internationalism and solidarity; now its banners merely proclaim the ‘righteousness’ of its anger – that is, when they’re not declaring an explicit affinity with movements of the religious right (‘We are all Hizbullah’ anyone?).

Cohen tells me he felt very much like Henry Perowne when he watched that million-strong crowd walking through central London. ‘There wasn’t a single banner criticizing Saddam Hussein. I thought at the time, surely that’s going to change, surely they’ll be able to criticize Bush and Blair but at the same time support the people in Iraq who deserve something better than Saddam. But they never did. I realised that people on the left who had once supported Iraqi socialists were going to dump them. That’s when the iron entered the soul. That’s when I thought something is going very badly wrong and that I need to write about it.’

Instead of supporting socialists and trade unionists in Iraq once Saddam had been overthrown, some on the left went so far as to romanticise the insurgency launched by Baathist irregulars and radical Islamists, declaring it to be a movement of ‘national liberation’ – as if this were Vietnam in 1968, not Iraq in 2003. At the same time, the far left group that ran the anti-war movement entered into a formal political accommodation with reactionary Islamism, a strategy which required that history be rewritten and the terms of left-wing politics be overhauled. Cohen was bemused. ‘To say it’s left-wing to turn your back on Kurdish and Iraqi socialists is to throw the best traditions of left solidarity out of the window. What kind of left is it that betrays its comrades?’

‘What’s Left?’ is not a book about the rights and wrongs of the war in Iraq but rather an attempt to answer the question of betrayal. Cohen deals in some detail with the history of socialist movements in the twentieth century in order to diagnose a number of ‘morbid symptoms on the liberal-left’ that the campaign against the war certainly brought into sharp focus but which he thinks were there long before Bush and Blair came to power.

For instance, he compares the strenuous act of historical forgetting involved in seeing Islamism as authentically ‘anti-imperialist’ with the mental gymnastics demanded of Communists and their fellow-travellers in 1939 when the Nazi-Soviet pact was sealed. Cohen is interested in the psychology of such accommodations. ‘I quite deliberately went back in the book and looked at the 70s and the 30s, at communists in the 30s and Trotskyists in the 70s (who ended up taking money from Saddam). That gives you clues to mental patterns, how people argue themselves into such positions.’

Yet, for all the historical parallels, Cohen insists that there is something distinctive about the latest ideological mutation on the left. For one thing, he says, ‘socialism as a practical political project is simply dead.’ What remains is the anti-imperialism of fools.

But isn’t this sort of thing restricted to a tiny and remote fringe of the far left? Cohen thinks not. ‘Taking a kick at the far left is good fun, but it certainly wouldn’t be worth writing a book about. The difficulty is that this attitude is so pervasive it’s hard to see how extraordinary it is. Because you’re no longer a socialist putting forward a programme, you don’t have to stand for anything. That’s why so many people read Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore – they don’t have to commit to anything. They just have to jeer.’

That is a chastening diagnosis. But at least in setting it out Cohen shows that there is still an alternative on the left to Chomsky’s suave nihilism and Moore's lumpen idiocies.

Re this book of Co0hens - if you are in the UK, buy your copy here. In the US, buy your copy here.

In the comments section at HP, i dont agree with all his views but i do agree with the sentiment:


What gets me is that those who have committed themselves to one side or the other in this struggle all insist that everyone has to commit themselves to one side or the other in this struggle. Well, f*ck you all. Saddam was a murdering f*ck who ought to have been ripped apart by wild dogs in the middle of the biggest stadium in Iraq. GWB and his cronies are a bunch of lying f*cks who ought to be on trial for crimes against peace -- you CANNOT start a war on the basis of LIES just because you think a war is a good idea! And the Iraqi 'insurgents' and any other assorted Islamists out there are f*cked so far upside their own heads that it's hard to know what we ought to do to them, but it ought not to be pretty. And f*ck Ahmedinejad, and f*ck the settlers in the West Bank. F*ck the suicide-bombers, f*ck the twisted bastards who wind them up. F*ck George Galloway, and the entire membership of 'Respect', and Ken Livingstone, and the MCB, and Tony f*cking f*ck-face Blair. F*ck you all, you stupid useless, f*cking dog-turd excuses for human beings, all of you!
I have children! And this is the world you are making for them -- gleefully, as far as I can see. F*ck you, if I could I'd rip out your hearts and piss in the holes.

Posted by Dave at January 24, 2007 11:53 AM

To which someone followed up - Enough of these coy euphemisms, Dave. Tell us what you really think.

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6 Comments:

At Wednesday, 24 January, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I will have a drink and toast to Dave tonight.

...except I kind of like Blair most days too.....
I did not support the initial invasion of Iraq ... I thought to finish the job in afganistan first should have been top priority. Too late for that now, and I do support the soldiers fighting in this mess. It might be our fault in some way, but the only chance to fix it is to make it right. To back out and leave is just too ridiculious even to concider. In the first days the celebration of the people almost made me feel maybe it would be ok after all... maybe thats what the insugents thought too. Now when I see news from Iraq it breaks my heart.
Watched a documentory called "my country, my country"
great now I went from rage to depressed ... think it's time for that drink.
heres to dave .. to alison (for the post)and to everyone else out there who is just as sick and tired of listening to all the stupid people have their say.
cheers

 
At Thursday, 25 January, 2007, Anonymous Maggie said...

"For one thing, he says, ‘socialism as a practical political project is simply dead.’ What remains is the anti-imperialism of fools." Yes..oh yes.

Great post Alison

 
At Thursday, 25 January, 2007, Anonymous alison said...

Indeed Tu - do you or Maggie know of any more women bloggers?

Maggie - you are right wing female with an opinion - someone with great views on religion, women, the EU, Britain, Iraq etc - please start a blog!

 
At Friday, 26 January, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alison,
I actually haven't seen many female bloggers as far as ones with opinions go, believe it or not the ones I have - have been from the middle east .... and they are not the crazy political Islamic type.... come to think of it I hardly know many woman personally interested in much ... one of the reasons I had to switch jobs was I couldn't bear sitting through another conversation focused on finger nails or what debbi did? (and that is a half joking statement)
I really don't seperate men and women, I'm sure thats not how your meaning it .... I would agree the current world seems to driven by testosterone. There is a joke here about men drivers refusing to ask for directions .... they would rather drive around forever than admit they are lost.
I'm no man hater ... I love men, my best friends have always been male ones ... and none have ever crossed the friend line, so boys and girls can get along - but sometimes you just have to say ... " yes yes you have a very large penis I understand. Now give me the fucking map!"

 
At Friday, 26 January, 2007, Anonymous alison said...

ROFL!

 
At Saturday, 27 January, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry to comment so much,
I wanted to give this link to a female blogger ...

http://bazatzi.blogspot.com/

I talk to her off blog sometimes and like her alot. she makes some really good posts, and is very open minded.

 

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