Monday, July 21, 2008

"Hats Off To The Canadians" - In the Journal of UK Labour Progressives

The Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee earns an approving review today in Progress, a journal of the UK Labour Party's principled left-wing writers and thinkers. In his "Progressive Internationalism" column, Alan Johnson, editor of the journal Democratiya and co-author of Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions, poses the question: "Well, perhaps after we have tipped our hats to the Canadians we might learn from them. Why not a British committee?"

A British counterpart to CASC would be tremendous, and would likely catch on even faster than CASC has in this country.

While Alan's perspectives and the sort of analyses that you find in Progress reflect a robust and healthy liberal-left political culture in the UK, it's a sad commentary on the state of left-wing politics in Canada that the default position on Afghanistan - indeed the official position of the New Democratic Party, though certainly not of all New Democrats - more closely resembles the posture of that extreme-right co-founder of Pat Buchanan's American Conservative magazine, Eric Margolis.

For all the woolly sort of anti-Americanism afoot within the Canadian liberal-left, it is also true, and not the tiniest bit pathetic, that to formulate a position on the Afghanistan question the Canadian left has in the main simply adopted holus-bolus the American counterculture polemics on Iraq, and changed some names. That's sophistication at the level of a cargo cult. No surprise, then, that it is considered innovative to the point of avant-garde to propose turning the once-socialist NDP into a soft-liberal Canadian brand and rhetorical branch plant of the U.S Democratic Party.

So, it's encouraging to know that there is at large in the English-speaking world, and beyond, a range of liberal-left thinking that is more firmly anchored, and for ideas and arguments from that expansive milieu there is no better source than Johnson's

Paul Berman, author of Power and the Idealists, calls Democratiya "the liveliest and most stimulating new intellectual journal on political themes in the English-speaking world." The Iraqi intellectual and anti-Baathist partisan Kanan Makiya, author of Republic of Fear, says: "Democratiya is the only voice coming out of the left that is attempting to find responsible solutions for the twin scourges of our age: terrorism and dictatorship emanating from the failed and failing political systems of the Arab and Muslim world."

Here's another good column Johnson wrote recently, in Progress, on Afghanistan and "fourth generation warfare." And from Democratiya, here's Anja Havedal's blistering critique of certain commonplace leftish views of Afghan women.


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