Wednesday, August 10, 2005


How the Left became the tacit allies of Islamofascism

I have remarked many times over the years that the political spectrum, like Einstein’s universe, is curved. If you go far enough to the right, you end up on the left, and vice versa. While the rhetoric of fascism and communism are diametrically opposed, the end result of the acquisition of political power, that is, the practical effect of either system upon the unfortunate average citizen, is virtually indistinguishable.

Writing in
The Guardian Unlimited last Sunday, Nick Cohen drew a parallel between the liberals of the 1930’s who pretended the abuses of Communism didn’t exist, and today’s left, which somehow manages to pretend that the Islamist militants are not the bad guys, and thereby have become the tacit allies of the psychopathic fascism that Islamism represents.

Looking back on how his generation covered up the crimes of communism in the 1930s, WH Auden explained that he and his friends weren't true communists but fellow travellers. At home they defended civil liberties and stood up for freedom of speech. Abroad, they tolerated atrocities precisely because they didn't impinge on them.

'Our great error,' said Auden, 'was not a false admiration for Russia but a snobbish feeling that nothing which happened in a semi-barbarous country which had experienced neither the Renaissance nor the Enlightenment could be of any importance: had any of the countries we knew personally, like France, Germany or Italy, the language of which we could speak and where we had personal friends, been one to have a successful communist revolution with the same phenomena of terror, purges, censorship etc, we would have screamed our heads off.'

The immediate point of Cohen’s piece was to describe the unceremonious declaration of his long-time fellow liberals that he was no longer one of them, that he had betrayed the anti-war movement by questioning its motives, and had had the audacity to suggest that perhaps it should be easier to deport suspected Islamist terrorists.

I'm sure that any halfway competent political philosopher could rip the assumptions of modern middle-class left-wingery apart. Why is it right to support a free market in sexual relationships but oppose free-market economics, for instance? But his criticisms would have little impact. It's like a religion: the contradictions are obvious to outsiders but don't disturb the faithful. You believe when you're in its warm embrace. Alas, I'm out. Last week, after 44 years of regular church-going, the bell tolled, the book was closed and the candle was extinguished. I was excommunicated.

The officiating bishop was Peter Wilby, a former editor of the New Statesman and a friend of long-standing, who delivered his anathema in the Guardian. The immediate heresy was a piece I'd written about how difficult the courts made it to deport suspected Islamist terrorists. As I'd campaigned to protect asylum seekers in the past, Wilby used the article as damning evidence of 'a rightwards lurch'. The old bat didn't understand that genuine asylum seekers are the victims of the world's greatest criminals - four million fled Saddam Hussein - not criminals themselves.

Even if he'd grasped that the Mail was wrong and real refugees weren't villains, I doubt it would have made a difference. My mortal sin had been to question 'harshly the motives of the anti-war movement', and to that I had to plead guilty.

But Cohen has not betrayed the left. He rightly realizes that in fact it is the left which has betrayed liberal principles, if not all decent human principles. Pointing out that the left’s position today is indistinguishable from the justification of imperialism in the 19th century, Cohen makes the point, powerfully, that there is nothing “liberal” about the left, which defends the indefensible blood-thirsty fascism which is the Islamist movement.

Auden noticed a retreat from universal principles in the 1930s - communism was fine in 'semi-barbaric' Russia but would have been a screaming outrage in a civilised country. He should have been alive today. With no socialism to provide international solidarity, good motives of tolerance and respect for other cultures have had the unintended consequence of leading a large part of post-modern liberal opinion into the position of 19th-century imperialists. It is presumptuous and oppressive to suggest that other cultures want the liberties we take for granted, their argument runs. So it may be, but believe that and the upshot is that democracy, feminism and human rights become good for whites but not for browns and brown-skinned people who contradict you are the tools of the neo-conservatives.

On the other hand when confronted with a movement of contemporary imperialism - Islamism wants an empire from the Philippines to Gibraltar - and which is tyrannical, homophobic, misogynist, racist and homicidal to boot, they feel it is valid because it is against Western culture. It expresses its feelings in a regrettably brutal manner perhaps, but that can't hide its authenticity.

The result of this inversion of principles has been that liberals can't form alliances with the victims of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or Iraq any more than the Auden generation could form alliances with the victims of Stalinism.

This isn't simply about international relations. Who is going to help the victims of religious intolerance in Britain's immigrant communities? Not the Liberal Democrats, who have never once offered support to liberal and democrats in Iraq. Nor an anti-war left which prefers to embrace a Muslim Association of Britain and Yusuf al-Qaradawi who believe that Muslims who freely decide to change their religion or renounce religion should be executed. If the Archbishop of Canterbury were to suggest the same treatment for renegade Christians all hell would break loose. But as the bigotry comes from 'the other' there is silence.

Thus, it is the leftists, the “it’s all Bush and Blair’s fault, there is no hope for democracy or freedom in muslim countries because the ‘those people’ really don’t want it” anti-any-and-all-war crowd which have abandoned all pretense at liberal or progressive thought, treating the violently aggressive Islamic fascists as the victims, and the average man in the muslim street as the tools and collaborators of the true enemy, the neocons.

Cohen suggests that he detects an undercurrent among liberals, a growing movement of folks who, like him, have reached the point where they are willing to break ranks with the leftist consensus and confront the evil of Islamism for what it is. The bombings in Britain he thinks, have been a wake-up call for many, and he likens the phenomenon to a ride on a train:

The thing to watch for with fellow travellers is what shocks them into pulling the emergency cord and jumping off the train. I know some will stay on to the terminus, and when the man with the rucksack explodes his bomb their dying words will be: 'It's not your fault. I blame Tony Blair.'

My advice to my former comrades is to struggle out of your straitjackets and get off at the next station. It would be good to see you on this side of the barrier.

I have long wondered how leftists could continue to call themselves “liberal” and “progressive” while espousing a philosophy which would abandon the people of the middle east to the oppression of a psychotic “religion” which is nothing more than a death cult; how people who are able to rationalize as cultural relativism a movement which espouses the slaughter of every man woman and child who is not one of them, could possibly think of themselves as "liberal" or "progressive".

Perhaps those on the left who truly are “liberal” thinkers are beginning to awaken to the realization that by jumping off now, they’re not abandoning their liberal principles. They’re getting off a train which has been hijacked by extremists who long ago abandoned the ranks of liberal thinking.

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