The Neo-Left

A key personal reason for starting Yankeewombat was to clarify my own thinking by putting myself in a position where I had to actually write down my reaction to events – not just think about them. Also given the repetitive nature of news cycles I’ve noticed inside myself that just passively reacting tends to recycle the same reactions over and over and makes progress in one’s understanding relatively slow. So I’m blogging in part because I believe writing those thoughts down regularly speeds up the process of understanding.

In Monday’s post I combined two center right critiques of the left (Wretchard of Belmont Club and John Fonte’s essay on Transnational Progressivism) followed by a ‘geography’ of the left by Norm Geras identifying what I believe to be a critically important, emerging segment on the left recently declaring itself in the Euston Manifesto. To the extent I still belong to the left I stand with the Eustonians, and do so gladly. To the extent I stand with the right I do so because I am impressed and convinced by the thinkers of the center right who have developed a credible critique of the post WW2 left/liberal consensus. Many on the center right are former liberals and leftists who I believe have begun to create a new political synthesis. Prominent examples would be Norman Podhoretz, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Davis Hanson. That is why the primary category in my links section (which I have so far failed to populate – must get to that) is ‘Blogs Neo-Left and Neo-Con’. I think that is where the action is and believe that the engagement, the interaction between these two factions, will generate the politics and progress of the future.

I think the left/liberal consensus of the post WW2 era has run its course – not yet politically or in numbers but in the effectiveness of its program and view of the world – broadly for two reasons.First, it has accomplished much of what it has set out to do, a great deal of which has worked, but some of which has not, or run into serious limitations. Second, the world it was developed to cope with and improve has changed profoundly.

It is the latter problem, I believe, that primarily creates the segment of left liberal opinion that Norm Geras identifies as in denial. The success of the left/liberal consensus in dealing with the problems of the post WW2 world has little to do with the new situation. Cultural tolerance, negotiation, avoidance of war were a brilliant reaction to the deep differences that had caused two world wars and threatened to plunge the entire world into nuclear disaster during the Cold War. But the world changed on 9/11 as radical reactionary Islam forced the West to take it seriously. In fact it was the very qualities that the West had developed to avoid self destruction that had made it vulnerable to small groups of extremists. It is a bit like medical progress where hospitals become the most vulnerable points of attack for opportunistic new bacteria. I’m not saying that Islamic radicals are bacteria. I believe they are our flawed fellow human beings who have fallen into a reactionary fanaticism in response to the changes of the modern world. In their reactionary response to modernity they are much like the fascists who wanted to have modern progress based on a social order grounded in racial and tribal barbarism. They are profoundly different in that they want a medieval social order grounded in religious extremism. But we are vulnerable to their single minded jihadism precisely because we have found a way to get along among ourselves that places serious and effective restraints on collective aggression – aka war. What I am saying about the current political scene is that a large segment of the population of the West , mostly on the left, is failing to recognize that an profoundly reactionary force has emerged that dwarfs the differences between the modern left and right.

So it is specifically that part of the left that was both for and against the Iraq war, but unequivocally anti Saddam and anti terrorist, that I think is very important politically just now. Both the far right and the far left are hypnotized by ideology, but for me the tragedy for the West is that the bulk of the left is putting opposition to the US first and falls into the trap of passively or indirectly supporting radical Islam and Saddam. They despise George Bush for going to war without the full permission of the UN, but they are in denial or ignoring what Jihadis see as a legitimate cause for war and the social forms demanded by radical Islam for – to name one – relations between the sexes. This political approach is usually labeled Stalinism and involves the temporary alliance with a group entirely at odds with one’s beliefs in return for short term political gains against those you have relatively small differences with. It was counterproductive for Stalin because it revealed how immoral communism really was and triggered disillusionment within the leftist intelligencia that eventually contributed to communism’s defeat. The current sympathy on the left for the Islamists will, I believe, lead to their being discredited politically and their position rejected generally because of its moral consequences. Oh, I think they have an election or two left in them here and there, but I don’t think that will build strength in any sustained way. The Islamic radicals will see to that. I think they have made their determination not to back off or compromise with a clarity that has been seldom equaled in human history. As Osama put it in 2003: “Socialists are Infidels, wherever they are.” And so are the rest of us and we need to work together on this.

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