Saturday, February 17, 2007

Meanwhile, over at the Drink Soaked Trots...

The Scylla and Charybdis of international politics, Will and JohnG, are just beginning the predictable row about a putative invasion of Iran in the comments on this post. I found the as-yet very short exchange interesting, because it throws into stark relief some of the issues between the so-called "stopper" and "decent" tendencies on the left.

Peculiar discussion, this. Especially when it's held between two people who are both putting arguments with virtually mirror-imaged flaws. Will is by far the politically sharper of the two, and quite rightly berates John's (and most of the left that gravitates around the SWP's) substitution of a simple disidentification with "imperialism" and de facto identification with any forces that oppose it - however reactionary - for actual political innovation, theory and analysis in politics on a global level. The consequence, he argues, is apologism for regimes that are brutally oppressive and/or actually fascist, purely on the grounds that they find themselves ranged against "imperialism". This is true, and can be applied to many people on that spectrum, even those not quite so stupid as to get all jelly-kneed over Muqtada Al-Sadr.

However, where he and his chums, pro-war leftists who happen (unusually for those under that label) to actually be mostly left-wing, go wrong, is that such a critique seems to the translate somehow into backing for ideologically driven offensives against various regimes in one particular region of the world, led by one of the most right-wing US administrations in that nation's history. They seem to have some kind of collective mental block that prevents them from disentangling neo-con rhetoric about spreading democracy in the Middle East from real liberatory goals. In other words, he (and they) would seem to have done a Cohen - ie, allowed legitimate criticism of glaring flaws in the politics of a section of the left, to lead them to have illusions in political initiatives led by a particularly malevolent section of the right.

By way of criticising the SWP-dominated left, Will says:

"The category of 'imperialism' so dominates and negates all other options that the imagination, the faculty of forming new ideas, the ability to be creative or resourceful is made reduntant."

Very sadly, in this political area at least, he would seem to have fallen into exactly the same trap, even if he is led to the opposite set of political conclusions. At least, that's the case if he (and other pro-war lefties such as Transmontanus, who wrote the actual post) is working himself up towards supporting an attack on Iran. Which I rather get the impression he is.

JohnG, on the other hand, manages to come to the right conclusion for all the wrong reasons: he rightly opposes the prospective attack on Iran. But then if the USA started distributing free apples to children the world over, John and his chums in the SWP would find some reason to oppose it. So I guess if you oppose anything and everything that one nation does in the field of foreign policy, then you're guaranteed to be right at least some of the time. And as a little Brucie Bonus, much of the closed and shrinking circle that is the trot/ex-trot left will say you've got "sound anti-imperialist politics". Oh, and you might get on the SWP Central Committee.

You pays your money, you takes your choice, I guess.

Update: Hak Mao has written a response to this post on the Drink-Soaked Trots site. As ever, it's very good - albeit that I'm apparently having a "fit of the vapours" according to Ms Mao. Take a look.


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