May 14, 2010
The Useless Manifesto: The Folly of the Fake Left
“Beware of conservatives bearing gifts.” This should be the lesson that every leftist and progressive of whatever stripe had learned over the many decades and even centuries of political struggle. When the right attempts to oppose the policies of the left, this is what one would expect, and obstructionist and backward as it may be at times, it at least expresses real interests in a straightforward manner. When on the other hand they start pretending to help the left, whether under the guise of ‘shared values’ or by attempting to draw them into a politics of liberal talking and reactionary doing, things get seriously dangerous. However, most of the 19th as well as the 20th century has had a left wing strong enough to constantly be on the offensive against such attempts, to learn to identify them and to combat them effectively by showing time and again how the liberalism of the right doesn’t really mean what it pretends to mean. Unfortunately, these days the serious left has been diminished so much that they are weak and easily caught unawares, and many of the supporters of the new generation are not rooted enough in history to recognize them. This gives ample opportunity for the worst kind of false flag operations undertaken under the banner of the ‘modern left’ and similar phrases.
No, this is not some conspiratorial rant. On the contrary, this phenomenon is a real one. It can be seen in the tendency of a certain sector of people to call themselves left wing, while at the same time emphasizing their support for ‘the West’ and ‘its values’, which need to be defended against the dark enemy du jour. These days this is usually Islam and the “threat of terrorism” as well as the constant hostility towards ‘our values’ that supposedly emanate from it. These people reason as follows: of course they share all our leftist priorities, have the same progressive ideals and sentiments and all that, but not just now; because now things are different; ‘we’ are under attack from a dangerous threat from outside (Iran, Saudi Arabia, what have you) as well as from the inside (muslims) who threaten our society so fundamentally that even the left can’t escape this, and therefore we’re obliged to all stand on the barricades together for the moment until the threat has passed. Presumably, only after this nebulous appearance on the horizon has passed are we allowed to be proper leftists again and criticize our own societies as we usually did.
Those who are well-versed in the history of political matters will recognize this pattern: it is in fact nothing else than a rehashed and warmed-up version of Shachtmanism, the parody of Trotskyism that came up in the United States in the 1950s and thoroughly supported every single American government repression at home or abroad under the guise of combating the greater tyranny of the USSR. Back then, of course ‘we’ were really leftist and wanted socialism, but the USSR was bad and worse than the US, there were orthodox Communists everywhere, the nuclear threat and domino theory were real, therefore we had to come together to defend the US now to criticize it later, and so on and so forth. Substitute ‘radical Islam’ for ‘Communism’, and the real tendency of this sort of people will become clear. Schachtmanism was associated with supporting the worst of the McCarthyite hysteria as well as rigorously opposing the anti-Vietnam War movement and the like. It is no surprise therefore that we will find very similar policies, again dressed up in a leftist costume, in such flagship magazines of this fake left as the British Standpoint.
This delightful magazine specializes in ‘green-baiting’, if I may coin a phrase, from a superficially left perspective. A mere overview of the latest article headlines in this magazine should give an indication of the neurotic obsession with Islam and ‘defending our values’ these supposed champions of the left have. “Gays Abandoned by Left’s Appeasement”, writes Peter Whittle. “Why do Western Women Convert?”, wonders Julie Bindel. ‘Conversion’ here means to Islam of course, since the magazine makes a point out of never saying anything bad about any branch of Christianity or Judaism: they are far too ‘left’ for that! There are people “Dreaming of an Islamist Ireland”, warns a certain Ruth Dudley Edwards – a real and present danger if ever there was one. And this is not mere cherry-picking: the magazine has specialized from the start in being the voice of pseudo-leftists going on about how ‘the Left’ has betrayed all we hold dear, will not defend our values, how we need a strong stance this time, and so on. In fact, aside from a delightful first episode with “poetry from Robert Conquest”, one can regularly count on it reproducing the Euston Manifesto line as well as articles of this useless manifesto’s main scribe, Nick Cohen.
Cohen claims to be a left-winger, but with him, this magazine, and the fake left movement altogether, it is deeply confusing where exactly this leftism is supposed to reside. After all, there is no Western invasion or venture against a foreign country, especially one with a mostly Islamic population, that they will not support: the Euston Manifesto was precisely formulated to be the ‘left foot of imperialism’ in this regard, because of a perceived lack of such support among the real left. Similarly, the average Standpoint article specializes in the most odious and right-wing methods of criticizing the influence and effects of Islam in Europe. Peter Whittle’s article “Gays Abandoned by Left’s Appeasement” is a good example. It starts with the use of the word ‘appeasement’ itself, a favorite pejorative of the neoconservative crowd to use against anyone who doubts the wisdom of bringing ‘our shared values’ of liberalism to other nations by means of brutal warfare and occupation. Never mind of course that appeasement to Hitler was a decidedly popular policy among the conservatives of those days, not among the left, who fought and died for Republican Spain. But the article is also saturated with broadsides like:
“The feeling seems to be that if they are ignored, then these nasty men will go away, and that in any case they are not representative. That may well be true. But this ignores the widespread intolerance of homosexuality throughout the Muslim communities, which in Britain are growing up to ten times the rate of the rest. This community can only increase in power and predominance, especially when faced with a weak, vacillating establishment which will do anything to avoid making a scene, let along stand up for Western liberal values.”
A weak, vacillating establishment unwilling to make a stand? A strong, aggressive response to the threat of strangers is needed? This sounds like many things, but not like the left. Or how about this quote from Bruce Bawer:
“Solidarity proscribes criticism. Never mind that these ‘allies’ preach that gays should be executed. Under the reigning PC mentality, the only way in which most gays can bring themselves to criticise Islam is to do so as part of a blanket rejection of all religion.”
The implication is apparently that the left that does ‘stand up for liberal values’ would criticize Islam from some other perspective than rejecting religion altogether. Perhaps from the perspective of Christianity? Or simply from the perspective of war-mongering and xenophobia? Or finally, in the context of a gay Pakistani Briton’s idea of his own homosexuality:
“Said one of the participants (who, again, were all given anonymity): “I’m gay ‘cos I was brought up here (in Britain) but I reckon if I’d been brought up in Pakistan, then I would have turned out straight because this doesn’t happen that much there.”
Multiculturalist white liberals, whose belief in the virtue of “celebrating diversity” has taken on the characteristics of some sort of fetish, could probably not bring themselves to point out the ridiculousness of that statement.”
With all these quotes, one thing is obvious: the author has no idea what ‘the left’ or even ‘white liberals’ actually are. Indeed, there seems to be several strange things going on here, none of which have anything to do with actual progressive politics.
The first is the conflation of leftism with liberalism. The irony here is that the left has traditionally combated the false ‘neutrality’ of liberal politics, which ignores the substantial effect of social and economic structures and pressures on people’s daily lives and interests. One can argue against liberalism or against the left, or even both, but one cannot pretend they are the same thing. The second issue is that one notes the propensity to construct the most atrocious strawmen of left ideas, especially academic ones. Absolutely nobody actually adheres to this type of ‘cultural relativism’ presented here. Nobody pretends that radical muslims are the ‘allies’ of the left on issues like homosexuality or really anything else other than opposing wasteful and destructive Western wars. There is not a single leftist I have met in my life, or that I have ever heard of, who would argue that the mentioned Pakistani-British boy is at all correct in his analysis. But one will note that the champions of ‘our shared values’ never actually bother to establish that this dangerous leftist appeasement conspiracy actually exists: not a single one of these accusations manages to quote, in context, a single actual leader of a left-wing party or similar figure on these issues. Instead, it all remains in the easily demonized vague domain of “white liberals”, “the hard left” and so forth. In fact if the Useless Manifesto crowd had paid any attention at all, they would have noticed that for example the policy to ban the burqa in France was supported strongly by the Parti Communiste Francais (PCF) and its representatives in the Assemblée Nationale. Similarly, the only movement to systematically work for the interests of women in Afghanistan without needing to bomb their family members is the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), a radical left organization. Some appeasement!
This brings me to the third point. What makes the entire undertaking not just delusional but also suspicious is the real thrust of the argument. Time and again, the writers of the fake left tendency argue that the external and internal threat of Islam overrides other, traditional concerns of the left; and time and again, their article is then filled with diatribes against the people standing in the way and refusing to ‘stand up’ for God and country, particularly the “hard left”, “feminists”, “cultural relativists”, “academia” and so forth. But what else is this than precisely a classically right-wing argument against the right wing’s classic enemies? Has not the ‘hard right’ always specialized in arguing that there is some major yet vague external and internal threat undermining Our Country and Our Values, and which we could destroy root and branch if it weren’t for the treason of the feminists, the leftists, the academics, rootless cosmopolitans and whatnot? If these people are now our friends on the left, then who needs enemies any more? We should not be deceived by their posturing as progressives because they occasionally take the time out of ranting against feminist appeasers and traitorous anti-war activists to express support for a minimum wage. After all, the British National Party also supports the minimum wage, and so, I’m sure, did Sir Oswald Mosley. When a movement specializes in conjuring up global threats and fifth columns, writes non-stop diatribes against the imaginary misdeeds of a traitorous left-wing clique, and agitates for more war and more ‘standing up for shared values’, a movement may be many things; but leftist it is not, whatever Nick Cohen may think. Be not deceived, and take no advice from people who indeed share no values with us whatsoever. Let our motto be: Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.
1), 2), 3) Peter Whittle, “Gays Abandoned by Left’s Appeasement”. Standpoint (May 2010). http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/features-may-10-gays-abandoned-by-left%27s-appeasement-peter-whittle-homosexuality-islam.