Wednesday, June 21, 2006

'Traitor!' 'Splitter!' On the death throes of the pro-war 'left'

A couple of months ago I dipped my toe into the discussion about the odious Euston Manifesto by posting the paper I wrote on the pro-war 'left'. If you remember, the pro-war 'left' is a tiny but noisy bunch of mainly British journos and bloggers who think that the 'pseudo-left' - that's the real left, for those of us who don't reside on Planet Zog - has betrayed its history and principles by not supporting George Bush's military adventure in Iraq. These curious folk think that the US Marines have taken on the mantle of the International Brigade in a new war against fascism. They dredge up some of the most unfortunate formulations of Marx - the stuff about dragging backward peoples out of barbarism at the start of The Communist Manifesto, and the celebrations of the destruction of Indian and Chinese society in some of the journalism of the 1850s - and use them to garnish their 'Viva Cheney' polemics.

Some people mistakenly interpreted the launch of the Euston Manifesto as a sign of the pro-war left's increased vigour. In reality, the Manifesto is a sign of the movement of most of the pro-war 'left' away from a highly contradictory political position toward a more uncomplicated rapproachement with imperialism. At the end of my paper I wrote that:

The pro-war left seems to be disintegrating as a coherent political tendency, as its former adherents choose between an uncomplicated neo-conservatism and a return to the ‘old’ anti-war left.

The Euston Manifesto replaces the ostensible commitment to socialism that was a feature of most pro-war 'left' discourse with an uncomplicated celebration of capitalism and bourgeois democracy, and a call for a 'progressive' alliance of the left with 'democratic' Tories and Liberal Democrats. If it is anything, the Manifesto is the beginning of an alliance between the Blairite section of the Labour Party and its co-thinkers in the Conservative and Liberal Democratic Parties, a sort of feeble pre-emptive strike against any leftward lurch in a post-Blair Labour Party.

Now the two largest pro-war 'left' blogs, Harry's Place and the Drink Soaked Trotskyist Popinjays for War, have fallen out over the direction of their 'movement'. The ostensible cause of the feud between the blogs is the policy of Harry's Place towards annonymous commenters, and one obnoxious commenter in particular, but the real reason for the discord in the pro-war camp is the drift toward 'liberalism' and 'away from the labour movement' that the Popinjays perceive amongst Harry and his boys. A number of the Popinjays really do seem to believe that they are Marxists; Harry and his mates have long since left such self-identifications behind, and sit on the Blairite right of the Labour Party. Like their more famous chums David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen, they have moved from 'left-wing' support for Bush's military adventures to across-the-board support for a free market capitalism barely constrained by Third Way social democracy.

If the situation on the Iraq front of the War of Terror looked more promising, and the possibility of new 'liberations' inflicted by Anglo-American weaponry existed, then the different factions of the pro-war 'left' might be able to put aside their differences and form a United Front against the dastardly appeasers and Quislings of the real-world left. But the all too obvious failure of the invasion and occupation of Iraq to create a 'progressive' outcome has taken the wind out of the pro-war ship's sails, and the same rhetoric that was used against the anti-war left is now being used by the Popinjays against the crew at Harry's Place. These 'liberal' deserters from the cause of Marxist imperialism are now apparently guilty of being appeasers of fascism - in other words, of the same sins as George Galloway, the Socialist Workers Party, and everybody else who didn't think George Bush was an objective revolutionary.

The Popinjays now seem to stand alone against a massive worldwide conspiracy of pseudo-leftist political parties and trade unions, and against the traitors and splitters on their own side. The pro-war 'left' has frequently used the word 'Trot' as an insult, and mocked the far left, and the Trotskyist sections of the far left in particular, as a collection of tiny sects riven by vituperative dispute and completely divorced from the labour movement and the rest of the real world. This 'People's Front of Judea' stereotype of the far left is fun to use, but it has only ever applied to a handful of silly groups. It seems to me that the stereotype can be applied much more accurately to the pathetic remnants of the pro-war 'left'.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you are right.

I particularly liked your last paragraph.

4:57 am  
Blogger Former Labour Voter said...

Obviously there's a fair bit here that I wouldn't agree with, but I think the following is broadly true:

the real reason for the discord in the pro-war camp is the drift toward 'liberalism' and 'away from the labour movement' that the Popinjays perceive amongst Harry and his boys. A number of the Popinjays really do seem to believe that they are Marxists; Harry and his mates have long since left such self-identifications behind

Or at least I for one never had such self-identifications. I think this episode is the first time I've ever been denounced for being a liberal. I'm also, apparently, guilty of "colluding with fascists" and "colluding with pseudo-leftists", (the latter because I popped up on Lenin's Tomb to say I hoped everyone was enjoying the spectacle). By the way, I hope you're enjoying the spectacle.

9:50 am  
Blogger David J said...

First of all, it's not surprising that there are grave differences between the pro-war social democrats at Harry's Place, and the pro-war self-proclamed Drink Soaked Trots.

The general line of each site is different, while having some issues in common, like supporting Bush's armed democratic revolution in Iraq (and for some, beyond there).

I would have liked a good deal less agressive behaviour from Will (whose broad points I often agreed with in the recent controversy). But even so, that does not mean an alliance on important issues can't be formed against the pseudo left. It just means we need to chill.

There are plenty of people in the pro-war Left, such as Last Superpower, who think the Euston Manifesto is too right-wing. Of course we don't expect self-proclaimed Blairites and social democrats to act like revolutionaries.

Why would they? That doesn't stop us uniting against the pseudo-left's attempts to sabotage a free Iraq by allying with murderous priests and fascists.

3:34 am  
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