Tuesday, April 04, 2006

At Least This Guy's Honest

In the current issue of The Nation, that ancient American magazine that has grown more adolescent with age, Ronald Aronson, author of Camus and Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It, puts a very interesting proposition to the American left. It's neatly captured by his essay's headline: The Left Needs More Socialism.

Here's why I think he's honest. He admits, even though mostly in an indirect fashion, that the American left is "stumbling around in the dark corners of American politics," that it has lost its soul, that it has "no vision," and that this has caused it to be "doomed," because it has been utterly incapable of articulating a vision sufficiently compelling to cultivate the affections of the American people.

But then, he blames the "right" for this. He singles out the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Francis Fukiyama, and Thomas Friedman. One might have thought Aronson would have been just the tinest bit harder on the American left itself, which, he correctly observes, has categorically dismissed socialism in favour of identity politics, specifically "feminist, antiwar, progay, antiracist, multicultural, ecological and community-oriented identities."

And then he turns for inspiration to Bolivia's Evo Morales, and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and proposes that American lefties should regard the World Social Forum as the contemporary version of the 19th century International Workingmen's Association.

Not to give advice to the American left or anything, but do look before you leap, lest you end up looking like complete idiots.

16 Comments:

Blogger Dirk Buchholz said...

Perhaps you should re-read the article.In your post you state:
... "Not to give advice to the American left or anything, but do look"...
Aronson makes a distinction in his article,he is talking about Chavez and Evo not those other "pseudo- leftist" named in the article you linked to.Unlike the article stated,what Chavez is doing is socialism.Imagine if just a fraction of the worlds governments helped the poor as Chavez has done.Chavez is factoring in other social factors, not just profit for the benefit of the majority(for the first time in his countries history).
The article you linked is rubbish from a cynic who would not know socialism if it slapped him in the face.
"Free-market" neo-liberal values has a way of making cynics of us all.To the point some of us see self,and selfishness every where.
Many of us,have lost the ability to dream or think for our selves. Indeed,that it not only could be otherwise,but that it must be,our survival depends on it.
He(Aronson) provides the same warning.He sure as hell is not blaming anyone for the pathetic state of the left in the US.
It is percisly because the left has no ideology that it is messed up and has no direction,this is the point Aronson makes.It (the "left")let the Regans and Margaret the milk snatcher dominate the political discourse.
It time the left gets over Stalin and co, begins once more to embrace socialism.It will not be an easy task (due to past history)but one that is vital if ever the left is to inspire anyone.
We all know the so called left is full of pseudo-leftists.
Embracing Socialism will provide a clear direction,which will help to weed out these fakers.
You know the story when push becomes shove... fair weather friends...
In the mean time I will support Chavez and EVo,at least they had the courage to hope,to get the ball rolling (warts and all).Humans are far from infalliable.
To dream of a better world also means at some point in time one must dare to do.

3:49 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Terry, I hope that you don't think the photo of the guy with the "Equal Rights for Suicide Bombers" is a leftist, although your text seems to indicate that you do.

4:49 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Dirk: I don't think Sanguinetti is especially cynical. Just cautious. And his article does set the record a bit straight. I'm as happy as anyone that Latin American governments appear to be settling comfortably into at least a centre-left path (which is really all Sanguinetti is saying), but I can't quite figure out all the euphoria about Chavez, for instance. He may be "our" populist windbag, but he's still mainly a populist windbag. Still, fair play and good luck to him.

As for d-p-u: I think we can be fairly certain that the eejit in the picture imagines himself as some kind of leftist, athough the extreme right does seem to have found a central place in the "anti-war" movement without anyone really having noticed. See antiwar.com, for instance. How many Stoppers know that it's run by an extreme-right Ayn Rand sect out of a millionaire's mansion in Menlo Park, California? They're big fans of Cindy Sheehan, by the way. Just like Chavez.

But I was only making the point that the guy in the photo is obviously a complete idiot - one of those "pseudo-leftists" that Dirk mentions.

Cheerio.

TG

5:27 PM  
Blogger whisper said...

Reminds me of an old joke circa 1966.

"Hey man, can you Sarte?"
"No I Kant. Camus?"

11:36 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

As for d-p-u: I think we can be fairly certain that the eejit in the picture imagines himself as some kind of leftist, ...

Nope, he's a right-winger, a member of the "Protest Warriors", a group that attends anti-war demonstrations with bogus signs.

From an article on them from last year:

The Leftists behind us had no idea our signs were parodying them saying things like, “Equal Rights for Suicide Bombers.” In fact, for awhile, they believed we were fellow anti-war protestors, just like them.

And there's a photo of the very same sign accompanying the article.

6:32 AM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Hey d-p-u:

That's hilarious: He was deliberately masquerading as a pseud nutjob - and nobody noticed?

Well that makes my point, rather better than I'd hoped.

Cheers.

TG

9:37 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

That's hilarious: He was deliberately masquerading as a pseud nutjob - and nobody noticed?

Ah, you skipped reading the article. No, they weren't noticed because they joined the front of the march with their signs pointing away from the body of the demonstration, but toward the news cameras.

9:56 AM  
Blogger tglavin said...

It seems to me that these goofs are capitalizing on the point that their signs are no goofier than those of the pseuds. As in here: http://www.zombietime.com/sf_rally_september_24_2005/portrait_gallery/

11:08 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

The URL scrolled off the page, and was difficult to retrieve. Here's the embedded link.

I understand your point that there are a number of loons in the left, but surely there are a similar number on the right as well, although less visible as they don't tend to put themselves on public display at demonstrations in the same manner of the lefty loons. With the notable exception of some right-wing bloggers, that is.

But if your intention to imply that these are representative of the socialist movement, and that, should the American left take Aronson's advice and inject more socialism into their political movement, then they will undergo a personal transformatiuon into aging hippies with poor poster-making skills, then you're painting with a overly wide brush.

On the other hand, if your point was to simply show that there are a number of batty people on the left, then identifying a right winger with a silly sign as a representative example is missing the mark by a wide margin.

Well, accidents happen, and the Protest Warriors have caused this type of confusion before. They had to be rescued by police at one particular demonstration after another group of right wingers mistook them for left-wing demonstrators and physically attacked them. In cases like this, I think it's less of an issue of right wing parady meshing with left wing goofery, and more an issue of right wing illusions about the thought processes of socialists seemingly confirmed.

12:27 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

"But if your intention to imply that these are representative of the socialist movement. . ."

No. I consider them evidence of a crippling fuzzy thinking on the left, specifically the so-called "anti-war" left.

1:12 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

...specifically the so-called "anti-war" left.

Being that I consider myself part of the anti-war left (when it comes to Iraq, at least, I'm all for the Afghanistan intervention), I'd appreciate some extra info on the fuzzy thinking part, as many of the dire predictions about Iraq have turned out optimistic, in hindsight.

1:32 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

d-p-u:

I was thinking mainly about the "anti-war left" and Afghanistan, but it's hard to distinguish because of the deliberate conflation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

See: http://straight.com/content.cfm?id=13175

I admit I haven't had much time for the anti-war left regarding Iraq, either. We lost the anti-war argument the minute the bombs started falling on that March morning back in 2003. "Troops out" may well be what the American "left" wants, but what matters more to me is what the people of Iraq want. And it's not necessarily the same thing.

2:58 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

"Troops out" may well be what the American "left" wants, but what matters more to me is what the people of Iraq want. And it's not necessarily the same thing.

Summarizing the American left's position as "troops out" is a gross simplification. Many prominent left-wing bloggers have taken the opposite view, and are now simply pleading for some kind of a plan, any plan that has more meat than just "stay the course."

Myself, I'd think that regardless of what the Iraqi people think at this point, the US has lost that particular war, and should be settling on plan B. In other words, what can be salvaged, and how.

Myself, I dunno what should be done there. I think the cause of humanitarian intervention has been set back by decades, and international diplomacy is a shambles. I don't know what can be salvaged, and I certainly don't know what can be done to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqis, which I'm damned sure is going to get a lot worse in the near future.

But you're right, the battle to stop the invasion ended a couple of years ago, and no one seems to have put a set of realistic alternative plans on the table since.

Other than the Iraqi blogger Riverbend in 2004:

I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice... Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go.

4:17 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

You're right. That was an oversimplification. But it is what the main anti-war groups are saying, I'm afraid. Troops out, pure and simple.

We could trade opposing Iraqi bloggers, I guess, but I pay much closer attention to what the NDP's Iraqi affiliate in the Socialist Internatoinal, the PUK, has to say. The last time I looked, among many other things, they were saying, `stay with us until we have a reasonable security capacity, but give us some kind of a timetable for withdrawal.

We'll agree to disagree on whether Iraq has set back the cause of humanitarian intervention or not. Only time will tell, but it was the unilaterial nature of the invasion, and the paralysis of the Security council over Iraq, that added up to the last straw that led to the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which remains untested. At least there is a mechanism now, although Michael Byers makes the case that Paul Martin screwed it up in its final form. Who knows.

Ye live in hope.

5:36 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

But it is what the main anti-war groups are saying, I'm afraid. Troops out, pure and simple.

Well, some political groups thrive through the appearance of publicly opposing established government policy and I suspect there is some of that at work. I haven't kept up on what some anti-war groups are up to, although I'd be surprised if political cults like the CPC/ML were not active in the area. Certainly some of the sloganeering rings of that groupthink prevelant in that collective mind. But I'd also be surprised if there were much public support for their views (or puported views expressed through Stalinesque slogans). Most lefties I know support the Afghanistan efforts, but oppose the Iraq adventure, for a variety of reasons.

...it was the unilaterial nature of the invasion, and the paralysis of the Security council over Iraq, that added up to the last straw that led to the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which remains untested.

I had thought that the R to P was more a reaction to Rwanda and Kosovo than Iraq, and that if in place it would have likely prevented the invasion, unless time travel to the late eighties or early nineties became possible. Still, either way, it's a welcome reform.

11:01 PM  
Blogger kid A said...

I can not speak for "the Left", (whatever that is), nor can I speak for the anti-war movement. However, I personally find it strange that you devote so much energy towards attacking people who attempt to show their disapproval of US foreign policy, ie: we are meant to look at the photos you linked and shake our heads at how wacko people appear for holding up signs that show George Bush with devil horns and a caption saying: BUSH IS EVIL.

You may believe that this is not the most intelligent approach, however in my opinion, bombing women and children for oil profits is pretty much, well, evil. So in my view the statement on the sign is not false.

More importantly, the person holding the sign is most likely not planning a run for the White House anytime soon, so really why should he have the answers to "What should be done instead?". We are told that we live in a society where we have freedom of speech and a right to peacefully protest, so in my view these people are choosing to exercise these rights by letting others know, that they simply do not approve of their government murdering people for corporate gain, while going around claiming that all of these noble objectives are being met.

I appreciate what you are saying in regards to mass movements requiring a better strategic approach, if significant social change is to be achieved. That having been said, I still fail to see how this puts the people in these photos any further from the mark.

Would you think it just as ridiculous to hold up a sign that says "Osama is Evil"? Most likely not, but you must keep in mind that we do not all embrace the kind of doublethink which you and the rest of the establishment so clearly do.

Lastly, perhaps you could enlighten me, or point me to the appropriate texts, which might give me a clearer understanding of the positions you hold in regards to US involvement in Iraq.

You touched on it stating that your protest ended as the bombs began to drop. This gives me the impression that you disagree with the way in which the action was carried out, but for the most part you believe that Bush & co had the right idea. This is illustrated as well by your enthusiastic support for Bush administration policies in Afghanistan to date.

6:56 AM  

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