John Wight writes:
Given the extent to which some on the left in the West continue to call for the toppling of Assad in Syria (a goal they share with Western governments), is Trotskyism the new neoconservatism?
At the start of his book, The Global Minotaur, on the whys and wherefores of the global financial and economic crisis, which swept the world at the beginning of 2008, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis ruminates on “that state of intense puzzlement in which we find ourselves when our certainties fall to pieces, when suddenly we get caught in an impasse, at a loss to explain what our eyes can see, our fingers can touch, our ears can hear.”
The name for this psychological condition, he reveals, is aporia, a state of befuddlement that has been much in evidence when it comes to the chaos and tumult that has engulfed the Middle East these past few years.
Here, Karl Marx’s admonition that, “The history of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living,” has never been more apposite.
History in the right hands is like a flashlight helping to penetrate the fog of obfuscation that shrouds the issue of war and conflict in the present.
However, in the wrong hands it is a crutch employed to support a paucity of analysis and critical thinking.
In other words, there is a marked and crucial difference between drawing a conclusion from the facts and applying a conclusion to those facts.
Those who fall into the latter category do so out of opportunism or ignorance, though when it comes to the fate of nations both are deserving of equal contempt.
A recent example of the former came in the shape of British Labour MP Hilary Benn’s speech in the UK Parliament, making the case for British airstrikes in Syria.
Hilary Benn, who by some ludicrous turn of events is Labour’s current shadow foreign secretary, constitutes an impeccable and irrefutable rejoinder to the proponents of the hereditary principle, given that he happens to be the son of the late and great Tony Benn.
The speech he made was heralded across the political spectrum from right to ‘fake’ left as a tour de force that bore comparison with Churchill’s legendary ‘fight them on the beaches speech’ after Dunkirk.
The adulation he received was in large part over his assertion that British airstrikes, carried out let’s not forget in violation of the country’s sovereignty, would be in keeping with the tradition of the International Brigades that fought in the Spanish Civil War.
Such a foul example of historical revisionism would be difficult to beat, one made worse by the fact that those British men and women who heeded the call to aid Spain in its struggle against fascism in the 1930s did so in defiance of the government of the day’s policy of non-intervention – i.e. appeasement – thus sealing Spain’s fate.
Hilary Benn, the very definition of a first rate second rate man, regaled the Commons and the country at large with a scream from the bowels of mediocrity, willfully dissing the heroism, principle, and courage of people who stood against the vile opportunism he represents.
However, even more insidious than the likes of Benn are those on the left who would have us believe, even after the disasters to befall Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya before it, that in Syria today there are forces fighting against the government that are deserving of our support and solidarity.
They would have us believe that something approximating to a revolution is raging in Syria, taking place somewhere in between the carnival of head chopping by sectarian fanatics and resistance to them on the part of nonsectarian forces in the shape of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies.
Like latter day John Browns such voices, wielding a copy of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution in one hand and a one-way ticket to irrelevancy in the other, unleash verbal broadsides of calumny at any who dare question the intellectual and ideological idiocy they parade with the kind of gusto one associates with the infantile disorder of a type well known.
For such people ideological templates are all the rage, employed as a convenient opt-out of the obligation to come up with a concrete analysis of a concrete situation.
Revolution is but a parlor game as they relive 1871, 1917 or 1968, the years bandied around like connoisseurs of champagne discussing a favorite vintage.
And don’t they just hate it when that bubble of smug complacency in which they reside is penetrated by the facts, pitching them into paroxysms of apoplectic indignation and self righteousness as they take to the blogosphere to deliver thunderous denunciations and biblical injunctions against those who dare blaspheme their ultra left nostrums and fantasies.
It is hardly an accident that many of the most noxious disciples of neoconservatism once inhabited the ultra-left.
Both have in common a religious attachment to the subjective factor when it comes to shaping societies, regardless of the catastrophic consequences wrought.
Material conditions – a product of real world conditions and specificities – are a trifling detail, reduced to the status of minor inconvenience in the messianic scheme of things.
Rather than herald the onset of societal collapse, chaos, conflict, and mayhem are the conditions out of which Utopias are forged.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “Puritanism is but the whine of the hypocrite.”