25 November 2005
Hand shandyism & neoconservatism are natural allies.
A faintly ludicrous article was published in The Guardian on Monday. The author, one David Clark a former NewLab spinner, argued that the left is in danger of permanent "schism" between pro and anti imperialist factions, unless something is done quickly. He points to the new Henry Jackson Society that has just been launched in London as evidence of this. Jackson was an American Democrat who was liberal on domestic policy, but very hawkish on foreign affairs. He is one of the father figures of the neoconservative movement in the USA. According to Clark:
It is common outside America to regard neoconservatism as synonymous with the Republican right. In fact, its roots lie mostly on the left. The original neoconservatives - also nicknamed Socialists for Nixon - were anti-communist leftists and liberals who became alienated from the Democratic party when it endorsed the anti-Vietnam war candidate George McGovern for president in 1972. Appalled by what they saw as the refusal of liberals to defend their values and confront totalitarianism in the guise of Soviet power, the neoconservatives drifted to the right, contributing to a broader political realignment that swept Ronald Reagan to power.
So what Clark is saying is that we on the left have to kiss and make up with the warmongers, otherwise said 'mongers will go off as their American cousins did a generation ago into neoconservatism. He concludes by saying that:
Efforts to heal the wounds created by Iraq must be a common responsibility of the liberal left. The coming end of the Blair era, together with the eclipse of the Bush presidency, provides an opportunity to disengage from the occupation and take a new direction in the fight against terrorism around which liberals and progressives can unite. To squander it would be to play into the hands of those who want the next era of British politics to be a Conservative one.
There are two issues that need to be addressed here. The first is that there is no split on the left and the second is that neoconservatism is rather more than a bunch of "leftists" who wandered off to the right.
That the left is united in opposition to this aggression against Iraq just happens to be a fact, and facts speak for themselves. Thus there will be no schism or split in socialist ranks because we are more united in opposition to this war than we have been in a long time about any other issue. What has happened is that a small section of the Blairite left has moved away from the rest of us and is already on its way towards neoconservatism. They are so few in number that they can be ignored for all practical purposes. They tend to base themselves around six or so websites, that are read by socialists when they want some free entertainment.
There is no organised, socialist element, here. All we find are a few individuals who have moved so far from the Labour and socialist tradition that one of them can say that he hates "chav culture for its casual violence, its anti-intellectualism, its celebration of mediocrity and conformity, and hatred of individualism". In other words he hates the working class, because "chav" is the word used to describe us by our class enemies these days. He also hates socialism because socialism is a committment to collectivism, rather than individualism. It's nice to get that one sorted out, and it's nice that at least one tosser is willing to admit to his true beliefs.
These hand shandyists for war are little more than middle class political consumers who took up socialism in the same way that they might choose a holiday in France over one in Germany. Being mere consumers they can pick up an object one day and drop it the next. They are not to be confused with the bulk of the Labour Movement who reach socialism because they are sick and tired of economic insecurity. Getting rid of a few of these cockroaches who have no emotional, economic or cultural links to the movement strikes me as an important first step in the recovery of that movement.
Secondly, neoconservatism is rather more than generic "leftism" that went wrong, in spite of what this writer claims. Its roots are Trotskyite and neoconservatism is basically what happens when a middle class Trot loses interest in the economics, but keeps his faith in the bit about permanent revolution that Trotsky was always so keen on. It's consumerism all over again, in other words.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, although Trotsky was an isolated and ignored figure who ended up head butting an ice-pick, his spiritual heirs have the ear of the White House; thus their version of permanent revolution should be taken seriously. If the imperialists win in Iraq, who will be next on the menu? Iran, Syria, Venezuala and Cuba have all come under verbal threat of late. One thing is for sure, armed with this ideology, wars would be a matter of course for us and our posterity. The Labour Movement cannot ally itself with creatures like this.
Neither should the movement allow itself to be blackmailed by them. Let them wander off into the Henry Jackson Society if they wish. Who are they and how many divisions have they got? They are nowt a pound and they count for nowt, is the answer that any decent socialist should give. The movement should bid them a fond farewell.