Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Remarkable

I would recommend that you have a look at this article by Denis MacShane in the Guardian. I don't normally have a huge amount of time for MacShane (which I'm sure bothers him tremendously) but this article is really rather good. Its premise is that the left has historically got some things spectacularly wrong, and some things wrong in detail even if right in principle, and that people pointing this out should not automatically be decried as traitors and 'neo-cons'.
We marched for Ho Chi Minh. But the first act of the Vietnamese government after 1975 was to open gulags - politely called re-education camps - and put all its opponents inside. It would be embarrassing to reread the eulogies to Robert Mugabe from the left in the 1970s. The left celebrated the downfall of the Shah but is the theocratic rule in Iran with its unending attacks on gay people, workers, journalists and women as well as the non-stop export of Shia antisemitism so much to be preferred?
There are, of course, two sides to this. The left was right to oppose Giap, Smith and the Shah - all three were deeply unsavoury regimes: undemocratic, authoritarian and repressive. However, there is a difference between opposition to a regime and support for its opponents. Giap was corrupt and repressive; Ho Chi Min was efficient at repression. Smith was murderous; Mugabe is genocidal. The Shah was undemocratic; the Ayatollahs anti-democratic.
Now, anyone can be wrong, and it is human nature to focus on the immediate overthrow of what is visibly bad, and not focus on its supplanting with something that might be worse. What is more damaging, and what MacShane identifies, is the ongoing reluctance to admit that things might not have turned out for the best - that in the enthusiastic embrace of ones enemy's enemy, one might have been embracing something rather worse. This is all the more true when talking about an enemy that I, and most of the right do not and will not consider an enemy: the United States. MacShane again:
History will record that the 21st century left's embrace of the deeply conservative politics of Islamism is as foolish as the left's egregious failures in the 20th century to walk away from Stalinism, Trotskyism and Maoism as well as false gods like Khomeini, Mugabe, and Castro.
And the reason is the same - the anti-American left (and I apologise for the continuing and tendentious labelling) has not properly distinguished between the visible short-comings of the United States and the far more serious evil of its enemies. Self-identification by way of what you dislike is dangerous - it blinds you to what you are making common cause with.
UPDATE: Predictably, I suppose, the majority of the comments lambast MacShane as a neo-con Zionist. Sigh.

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