Monday, October 30, 2006

A different Hitchens

Bob Woodward's recent expose of the Bush administration includes a passage where a defiant commander in chief pledges to 'stay the course' in Iraq 'even if nobody supports me except my wife Laura and my dog Barney', or words to that effect. Reading Woodward's anecdote, I was surprised that Bush hadn't added 'and that nice English fella Christopher Hitchens' to his list of last-ditch supporters. In the long years since 9/11 the man they call 'the Hitch' has never flagged in his support for Bush's War of Terror. Recent articles by Bush's favourite ex-Marxist accuse the authors of the Lancet report of moral idiocy, fulminate against those cut 'n run Democrats, and attempt forlornly to resurrect long-dead arguments about Saddam's weapons programmes. I think that Barney is probably a more intelligent and critical supporter of Bush.

The Christopher Hitchens Web was designed to collect every new production from the great man's pen, but I'm not sure whether the site will let its visitors know about a couple of much older articles by the Hitch which have just gone online. The wonderfulMarxist Internet Archive has just added a dozen or so articles to its 'International Socialism 1969-1974' section, and they include two short book reviews that the young and comparatively clear-headed Hitchens wrote in 1972. 'Lenin's Moscow' considers the French Marxist Alfred Rosmer's account of the time he spent at the epicentre of world revolution in the early 1920s; 'Workers' self-management in Algeria' dwells on Ian Clegg's account of the worker-controlled industries that were a feature of Ben Bella's Algeria.

Hitchens sometimes likes to complain that his views have never changed, and that it's the left which has abandoned the principles he once stood for, but the reviews he wrote for International Socialism all those years ago show this argument up. The Hitch's recent columns for such left-wing publications as the Wall Street Journal have been rather short of sentences like these:

For Marxists, a critical understanding of the history of their own movement is essential, and it is all too rare for us to have the opportunity of reading genuine first hand accounts. Too often the reviewer has to advise such things as ‘ignore the cold-war introduction’ or ‘read this book for information, not author’s opinions’...

Lenin would never conceal a mistake, or try to deflect the responsibility for it...

Generally speaking, Clegg ignores the conception of a mass workers party informed by Marxist theory. Naturally enough, this leads him into confusion...

But it's not only Hitchens' political convictions that have changed - it's the subject matter of his writing. Of the hundreds of articles he has churned out about Iraq over the last few years, not a single one focuses on that country's labour movement, which has been engaged in a life and death struggle against both US imperialism and reactionary local forces. Hitchens has written often of the 'liberation' of Iraq from Baathism, but he has not found the time to denounce the retention of Saddam's 1987 Labour Law by the occupiers, or the attacks by US troops and US-backed militias on trade unionists and left-wing activists.

Against steep odds, the Iraqis have built a union movement which might yet act as a bulwark against the reactionaries once the US and British are driven from the country with their tails between their legs. But don't expect to hear about the Iraqi workers' movement via the Christopher Hitchens Web.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I could believe in the IFC, but this is basically another Worker-Communist front group with some academic support. I'm sure they're doing some good things on the ground but I don't know that they have any reason to call themselves a broad or plural organization capable of accomplishing anything significant in the long run. This is the same party that called for the 'isolation of Iran from the international community' and sees the United States and Islamism as the two (equal) poles of 'international terrorism', between which one make a 'Third Way'. Given the temper of the Middle East, with support for Hezbollah, Ahmadinejad and sections of the Iraqi resistance at a high, it's unlikely that secular resistance has much of a presence on the ground--especially when secular resistance is just barely anti-imperialist.

What ever happened to the Iraq National Foundation Congress? They seemed to be all over the place a year or two ago, and now there's no mention of them anywhere. That was a group that really seemed like it had a chance...


12:12 pm  

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