And where, pray tell, did the Left go right?

Via Norm I learn that David Aaronovitch is presenting a documentary on Channel 5 in which he:

“[E]xplains where the left have gone wrong on Israel, Palestine, the War in Iraq and the War on Terror.”

That’s good of him, but it would be better for him to explain where the left have gone right on matters of global affairs, as the documentary is only scheduled for 45 minutes and trying to explain in this time where the left have gone wrong is no mean feat.  But I think Aaronovitch is wasting his time as it is staggeringly obvious, and always has been, where the left has gone wrong. 

After all, they were wrong about the Russian revolution, they were wrong about the Russian civil war, they were wrong about Lenin and the intentions of the Bolsheviks, they were hopelessly naive about the Spanish civil war, they were wrong about the threat posed by Hitler, they were wrong about Stalin, they were wrong about post-war Europe, they were wrong about North Korea, wrong about Mao and China, wrong about East Germany and the Berlin Wall, wrong about NATO and the Warsaw Pact, wrong about the Vietnamese communists, wrong about Fidel Castro and Cuba, wrong about the deployment of US missiles into Europe, wrong about Ronald Reagan, wrong about Afghanistan, and wrong on the entire communist experiment and its millions upon millions of victims.

So excuse my sceptism, but if you’re going to make a documentary on where the left has gone wrong, it needs to be a 12-part DVD box set with special pull-out wall chart.  The failures of the left over the last five years may need explaining to some on the left who cannot fathom what is going on within their own ranks, but to the rest of us this is simply a continuation of nearly a century of similar wrongheadedness for which someone else, always someone else, pays in oceans of blood.

Aaronovitch again:

He asks how we’ve got to the point where British Socialists support Islamofascist Terrorism.

My suggestion is that he asks instead how British Socialists supported the cold-blooded murder of an entire family, including the disabled 13-year old son and 4 young daughters, along with their doctor, cook, valet, maid, and dog and the soaking of their bodies in acid before chucking them down a mineshaft in Ekaterinburg.  He can proceed from there to enquire why, when it became abundantly clear that people were dying in their tens of millions in the Soviet Union, British Socialists refused to accept the evil nature of the communist regime, defended its leaders wherever they could, and did everything they could to thwart attempts by British parliamentarians to confront the Soviet government.  

Once he’s got some answers to these questions, understanding how British Socialists are now supporting a different gang of mass murderers should be pretty damned easy.

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15 Responses to And where, pray tell, did the Left go right?

  1. Mark Holland says:

    Listening to ‘COMING IN FROM THE COLD: Jeremy Vine investigates how popular culture was inspired by the Cold War over the last 60 years.’ on Radio 2 last night caused me to emitt the words “oh shut up you giant ponce” as Sting told us in a contemporary interview, why Russians do actually love their children too and how nasty rhetroic from “Americans” about “Russians” being terrifying monsters was so bad. We know/knew they are/were human which is why the nasty, stupid Reagan and Thatcher wanted to prise the jackboot off of their necks. Another thing was the constant worry about the nutters with their fingers on the button. Anything Reagan or Thatcher said was terrifying sabre rattling (including jokey microphone tests that gave humourless lefties heart failure) whereas anything from the Kremlin needed minute examination and peeling apart in order to get to the real olive branch hidden behind a ton of stuff to appease the Politburo. See also comments like “wiping Israel off the map” by the president of Iran.

  2. dearieme says:

    I’ve always said that the answer to overpopulation is that we kill all the socialists.

  3. W. Shedd says:

    I don’t know – as an American I am left scratching my head and wondering … what left are you talking about? If it is American politics, I can speak perfectly well about the mistakes of Democrats vs. mistakes of Republicans. The list is long on both sides, both domestic and international.

    As for some of these wrongs that you mention, I am wondering if it is really the business of the West (American, UK and whomever) to stick our nose into Russia/USSR, China, Vietnam, etc. I see at least as much catastrophe from these policies and their backlash.

    The US hasn’t had anything quite akin to British Socialist party, we’re a bit more conservative all around, but there have been obvious mistakes in support of the former Soviet Union, particularly in the era of the 1930s to 1950s and certain news reporters and politicians during the Stalin Era. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard mention of any American politician who was “soft” on Cuba or Korea or China, etc. I am guessing this is mostly British Socialists that you are speaking about.

    In terms of a general political discussion, I would consider myself to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I think this makes me what should be considered a true conservative, as I don’t want the government spending lots of my money and I don’t want them telling me what to do in my home or what to teach my children either. In the US, this means I am forced to select from one of two evils. This current election cycle will likely mean that I will vote Democratic, simply because Bush spends money like a drunken sailor and his party looks toward bringing more religion into public schools, abolishing abortion, teaching creationism, and basically doing battle with science on all fronts. But am I convinced that the Democrats have any solutions better on the international front or that they won’t have to increase taxes to make up for Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility? Absolutely not.

  4. George Hargraves says:

    You might as well ask why do fish swim.

    I think there is a very simple answer why the the left has always been wrong: their erroneous view of human nature. Once you accept that Man is intrinsically good, then you need a scapegoat to account for Man’s corruption, a role which, traditionally, the ruling classes and employers have served. From there it is a short step to believing that society can be restructured and managed to reflect the left’s “noble” concept of human nature. Corelli Barnett dismissively called such leftist reformers “New Jerusalemers.”

    It is another short step to applying those principles to the entire world. Of course, neither society nor the world is anything like the left would like it to be and some of the conceptual contortions they perform to square the circle of their views and the reality are bizarre, even hypocritical.

  5. Steven Wood says:

    Gee whizz, that’s quite a roll call there.

    wrong about Fidel Castro and Cuba, wrong about the deployment of US missiles into Europe,

    eh…right. Didn’t the deployment of US missiles in Turkey help castro gain international prestige when the soviets tried to redress the balance.

    Besides what are you on about now ? All people left of your own interventionist political view are now socialists ?

  6. Serf says:

    a 12-part DVD box set with special pull-out wall chart.

    You forgot the workshops. Lefties can’t do anything without them.

    Oh and Steven, anyone to the left of Tim is a socialist. They rebrand themselves from time to time, but the desire to stomp all over the free will of others doesn’t change.

  7. Nick says:

    The western right has had a similar set of misadventures, don’t you think? Death squads in South America, proxy wars funded and fuelled, significant support for the fascist regimes of the early 20th century, continued support (tacit and explicit) for convenient dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, etc etc.

    Pot meet kettle. Turns out you’re both black. Not much is acheived by cheap name calling and keeping score.

    Oh well, on with the motley…

  8. Steven Wood says:

    serf.

    “Oh and Steven, anyone to the left of Tim is a socialist. They rebrand themselves from time to time, but the desire to stomp all over the free will of others doesnt change.”

    Thanks for pointing this out. Since I seem to be quite far to the left of Tim, I must practically be a Trotskyist. It never seems to dawn on you lot but most of the acts which you and tim are here glorying in the success of, were done in violation of the will of the norms of international democracy.

    I think you’ll find that the majority of people alive on the planet today don’t agree with the war in Iraq, don’t agree with Israeli or US poilcy in the Middle East.

    How does it all sqaure with your love of democracy and desire to see “free will” being exercised ?

  9. Tatyana says:

    gee, look at all the roaches showing up when light strikes.
    scram!

  10. Tim Newman says:

    It never seems to dawn on you lot but most of the acts which you and tim are here glorying in the success of, were done in violation of the will of the norms of international democracy.

    Sorry? You’re going to have to help me out here. Please highlight exactly which acts serf and I are glorifying here?

  11. Steven Wood says:

    I didn’t say “glorifying”, I said you were glorying in the success of them. i.e. unless I’ve totally mis- interpreted your post, you think they have been vindicated and are evidence of the spineless lunacy of anyone who ever thought otherwise. And what on earth is a statment like “the left were wrong about post war europe, wrong about Afghanistan” supposed to even mean ? Just because someone might have views that you think are left of your own, does not mean they are “commies”.

  12. Tim Newman says:

    I didnt say glorifying, I said you were glorying in the success of them.

    I am sorry. My confusion stems from your use of the word “glorying” as a verb, which according to most dictionaries does not exist. The closest I could get was glorifying, and replied accordingly.

    unless Ive totally mis- interpreted your post, you think they have been vindicated and are evidence of the spineless lunacy of anyone who ever thought otherwise

    Yes, I think you’ve totally mis-interpreted my post.

    And what on earth is a statment like the left were wrong about post war europe, wrong about Afghanistan supposed to even mean ?

    Firstly, I am using the same definition of “the left” in this post as Aaronovitch is using when he:

    [E]xplains where the left have gone wrong on Israel, Palestine, the War in Iraq and the War on Terror.

    i.e. sections of the left, not the entire left, not everyone on the left, and certainly not anyone who disagrees with me. I think what Aaronovitch is getting at is that the failure of the left to deal with such misguided people within its own ranks signifies a failure on the left as a whole.

    So, to answer your question, what the statements you’ve quoted mean is that the same left who Aaronovitch is on about are the same left who were wrong on post-war Europe (i.e. they thought the Marshall plan represented US imperialism and NATO was an agressive alliance against a passive USSR which only wanted peace) and the same left who were wrong on Afghanistan (i.e. they thought the communist puppet government represented progressive ideals and that the Soviet invasion was not to be opposed).

    Just because someone might have views that you think are left of your own, does not mean they are commies.

    No, it doesn’t. Hence I have suggested no such thing.

  13. Steven Wood says:

    “I am sorry. My confusion stems from your use of the word glorying as a verb, which according to most dictionaries does not exist.”

    Glo-ry
    intr.v., -ried, -rying, -ries

    It’s an intransient verb hence it’s use in the sense “he is glorying in his own sense of self importance” would, for example be perfectly acceptable. Most dictionaries will tell you this if you bother to read them, including dictionary.com. I can only conclude that your research was totally piss, or actually never took place at all, anyway…

    You would get no argument from me that there are lunatics on the left who probably did think that the marshall plan was US imperialism. Whether the secular regieme installed by the soviets can be described as having less progressive ideals than the taleban, those who preceeded them or the religious nut jobs the CIA paid to go and fight there in the 80′s is another argument entirely as is the method of “opposition” chosen, who’s rewards we are now reaping. I would say the “right” got that one wrong too.

    I hear a lot of this sort of thinking these days along the lines that the “left” need to root out the terrorist apologists in their ranks. I think most people on the “left” do speak out against terrorism and the easiest way to defend against a liberal argument is to suggest that it is being made by someone who agrees with the terror tactics (for example) of someone claiming to represent a group whos right to liberty the “left” would traditionally defend. It’s rare to hear the “right” asked to distance itself from the ku klux klan.

  14. Tim Newman says:

    Its an intransient verb hence its use in the sense he is glorying in his own sense of self importance would, for example be perfectly acceptable.

    Okay, my bad. My apologies.

    Whether the secular regieme installed by the soviets can be described as having less progressive ideals than the taleban, those who preceeded them or the religious nut jobs the CIA paid to go and fight there in the 80s is another argument entirely as is the method of opposition chosen, whos rewards we are now reaping.

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Instead of comparing the Soviet regime with the Taliban, who were more the result of a collapse in authority in Afghanistan than any actions on the part of the CIA, why not ask how progressive the Soviet backed regime was compared to the one it overthrew, and ask how the residents of Afghanistan fared under the King prior to 1973 compared to what followed. Ask the residents of Herat, in particular.

    The argument that everything was fine and dandy in Afghanistan until the Yanks came along and imported Islamic extremism is nonsensical at best, and betrays a complete lack of knowledge of Afghan history and an an unwillingness to confront the possibility that the Soviet Union is largely responsible for the mess which became Afghanistan and in comparison to the USA, wholly culpable. Thank you for so aptly proving my point about how the left fail to understand where they have gone wrong again and again, and need somebody to make a documentary to point it out.

    Its rare to hear the right asked to distance itself from the ku klux klan.

    That’s because most of the right have distanced themselves from them long ago and don’t need asking. However, there are stil dozens and dozens of the left – many in prominent positions of public life or academia – who have not explained why they supported communism and its brutal dictators for so long, and in many cases continue to wish that the experiment was still alive. And it is of no suprise to most of us that these same people, who number quite a few and render the number of KKK supporters on the right statistically negligible, are the ones supporting the murderous tactics of another band of ideologically driven lunatics.

    And that, my friend, is the difference.

  15. Gracchi says:

    Tim
    I disagree with your statement there are some on the left who wouldn’t distance themselves from teh Soviet Union, just as say there are US senators who continue to embrace the confederate flag, but most of the left would distance themselves from the Soviet Union and would say that it was a horrible regime. I think that the problem here is that you are following Aaronovich’s categories and hence making a mistake- the left has many many strands to it- if you think about it the left has backed every foreign policy from non-intervention whenever possible (John Bright, Noam Chomsky) to international government over the years (E.D. Morel, Ramsay MacDonald, Christopher Hitchens). There are many on the right who made exactly the same series of mistakes- for example over Hitler, Chamberlaine, over Russia, Nixon who inaugurated detente, over China, Edward Heath who continued to say it was a good thing till his death, over Milosevic Douglas Hurd. In Yugoslavia it took the rise of a leftwing government over a rightwing one in Britain for action to be taken. There were few cold warriors stronger than either Bevin or Healey.

    I suggest that it might be more profitable instead of going on about the left to take on the actual arguments and show where the Chomskys of the world go wrong in their logic- what is it about intervention in other countries that you can defend and where should it be made, when. When does a regime become terrible and to be denounced- when it massacres its own people or when it invades other countries and when should that judgement be made.

    Gracchi

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