17 June 2013

Never forget, the ‘decent left’ are anything but

Wanton death, destruction and fundamentalist-motivated sacrilege
brought to you by the ‘Free’ ‘Syrian’ ‘Army’

On occasion, I like to look at what goes on in the minds of the old Trot tendency in the socialist movement, the Eustonites who like to call themselves the ‘decent left’. You know, the ones who, having proclaimed the dialectically-material obsolescence of everything from religion to the family to the labour union and back, now find themselves staring down that very same obsolescence and are doing everything they can to stay relevant, picking up all the old culture-war discards, the middlebrow bourgeois nouveau-atheism and hare-brained adventurism they figure are popular with the kiddies and tagging them to their banners hoping to hide the fast-fading red beneath.

They’re the sorts who like to playact as feminists when on the subject of misogyny in Islam (or in the SWP, or amongst the defenders of Julian Assange) and then show themselves as the pudgy privileged white men they are when clamming up on the subject of the very deep-rooted misogyny (and occasional sexual assault) in nouveau-atheist circles. Of course, it goes without saying for such people that the only people who can truly be working-class are those who forsake and spit on the religious convictions that an overwhelming majority of the real working class worldwide look to not just for otherworldly comfort but for inspiration for this-worldly social reform.

Speaking of which, these are the sorts who love playacting as liberal advocates of religious freedom for the poor oppressed Islamic fundamentalists when the same are arrayed against countries the US and the UK happen at the moment not to like (like Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and now Syria), and then as hardcore laïcists and anti-jihadists when (oops!) those same Islamic fundamentalists turn out not to have the liberal ideals of the US so closely at heart. Huh. Real shocker, I know – can you really blame these guys for going for the kick every time Lucy whisks away that football?

Of course, they don’t have to be old fogeys, and many of them aren’t, but they jumped aboard that fast-sinking Titanic and are now desperately trying to bail it out. To be clear, this is the constituency which includes the likes of Oliver Kamm, David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen, Norman Geras, Marko Attila Hoare, Michael Totten and so forth. These are precisely the people GK Chesterton warned of when he remarked ‘how quickly revolutions grow old; and, worse still, respectable’.

So it was on just such an occasion that I popped onto the Shiraz Socialist blog to see if they had anything new or interesting to say about Syria. Turns out I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. First thing that comes up from the ‘Raz on Syria is a YouTube video of Charles Lindbergh and a snarky comment directly comparing the people who dare to point out trivial little things like the massacre of entire Christian villages by the rebels to Hitler-appeasing racists and closet fascists. Looks like the rule still holds that you can’t be a member of the decent left if you aren’t willing to pre-emptively demonstrate the coherence of Godwin’s Law at every available opportunity.

It doesn’t get better.

Before writing off for no particular reason the editor of the New Statesman as ‘smug’, ‘shallow’ and ‘sanctimonious’, it essentially descends into, well, smug, shallow and sanctimonious Rumsfeldian territory (through a lengthy blockquote from another ‘decent leftie’ blogger) to the effect that, well, you gotta do something! (And somehow ‘something’ always translates into carpet-bombing or landing troops in a puny little country on the other side of the Atlantic.) Smug, because it begs the question it raises in assuming the cost of doing nothing to be greater than the cost of doing precisely that something; shallow, because it really ain’t necessarily so (and hasn’t been demonstrably for the past five or six conflicts we’ve been dragged into, for anyone except those brave and upstanding stalwarts of the international working classes, the military contractors and private security firms); and sanctimonious because it expects every right-thinking person to arrive at the exact same conclusion on the exact same reasoning.

Which, of course, many don’t. And won’t. And shouldn’t.

Not least because not everyone in a free society is willing to toss our experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan down the Memory Hole as easily as Hopi Sen is willing to do. (My cultural-anthropologist friends tell me they have observed that ‘decent lefties’ take childlike glee in references to the works of Mr Eric Blair, because of their creation-mythological superstition that said author was the founder of their tribe.)

And many more of us (I suppose the ‘Raz would never call my benighted Augustinian ilk ‘right-thinking’) believe that intervention is not a decision arrived at by cost-benefit analysis. It should be a decision arrived at using much sounder – I would certainly say more ‘decent’ – logic and reasoning.

It hardly needs pointing out that this is not World War II and Syria is not Nazi Germany, however desperately the ‘Raz and those who think like him want and need it to be. And the case for intervention in Syria, on the facts as they have been uncovered over the past two years, simply doesn’t hold up.

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