Venerable Marxist-turned-Neo-Con (how cliche) Norman Geras
has highlighted a contribution by one of the signatories to the 'Unite Against Terror' statement. For anyone not aware, UAT is the lovechild of Harry's Place and something called OpenDemocracy.
Its founding statement, issued in response to the July 7th bombings, basically asserts that the bombings were not motivated by any anger towards US/UK foreign policy, but by a radical, indeed 'fascistic', hatred of 'democracy'. You get the picture. Basically, anyone who reads Cohen or Aaronovitch or any of the Pro-War blogs could have knocked it out in ten minutes. So, platitudes abound!"We believe that democracy and human rights are worth defending with all our strength. The human values of respect and tolerance and dignity are not 'western' but universal."
Great, who doesn't? The important question is not whether respect and "tolerance" are values worth upholding, it's whom we get to do
the upholding. For many of the people who've signed, Cohen, Hitchens etc, the U.S. Marine Corps is up to the job.
The problem there is that the U.S. Army, and the U.S. State, has a long, proud, staunch and continuing
opposition to democracy and human rights.
Anyway, UAT is a fairly insignificant organisation, restricted to the insular, if slightly creepy, world of Neo-Con Left. The reason I mentioned them, as I intimated, is because 'Norm' chose to highlight one contribution - presumably because he thinks it 'resonates'. It's written by a man called Evan Matthew Daniel - who tells us he was in 'Manhattan on September 11'. Here's the rump of Mr. Daniel's contribution. It's interesting, I think you'll agree.
"I had long thought that countries like the United States and Britain - liberal democracies - were imperialist powers responsible for most of the world's ills and that wide-spread poverty and economic desperation in the Muslim world drove some Muslims to commit desperate acts, like blowing themselves up in pizza parlors in Tel Aviv, slamming planes into buildings in New York City or terrorizing commuters on the subways of London and Madrid. As I learned more about the perpetrators of these acts of violence it became clear that they were not members of some lumpenproletarian under-class. These were educated middle-class men following an ideology that stands against everything liberals are supposed to defend: open societies, equality for the sexes, political pluralism, free expression, the list goes on and on. It's high time that those of us who consider ourselves progressives and liberals stood up against what is the greatest global threat to freedom and democracy in the world today, the threat of Islamist totalitarianism
This raises a number of interesting points.
Daniel correctly identifies that Imperialism is responsible for most of the world's ills. Although he may have meant it to, nothing he says after this contradicts or diminishes this point. The hijackers were middle class, so the US and UK aren't imperialist? Eh? How does that work then?
Firstly, there's arisen in much of the West's mainsteam political and intellectual discourse a kind of 'before and after' version of history. Some would like us to believe that the whole pantheon of human history (or, certainly post-war history) can be divided into pre and post 9/11.
This is an neat rhetorical device. It makes it seem that the 9/11 attacks were the 'first act', and that every action thereafter is a response. It encourages us to dismiss as 'unimportant' the preceding 50 years of theft, corruption, murder and dictatorship supported and perpetrated by the West in the Middle East. Followers of the Israel/Palestine conflict will recognize this trick, particularly in the media coverage. Israel is always 'responding' to some Palestinian transgression. You're not meant to ask, sorry, WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY DOING THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE?. It helps them create a debate in which the only reasonable question is, 'how violent should our retaliation be?'
Now, as to the class of the hijackers. It's hardly a great historical revelation that resistance to imperialism is led by the urbane middle classes. Gandhi went to UCL - does that mean Indian anti-imperialism was somehow unconnected to the Indian masses? No, of course not. The leaders of the Chinese and Cuban revolutions were also bourgeois figures. Also, to be somewhat tactless here, it's obvious that if the hijackers have to engage in activities like going to flight school in America, they need to be of a certain intellectual 'quality'. But, that's irrelevant.
The ideology of Islamism and 'Western Values'? Sure, I'll take Daniel's word for it that "we" stand for some of those things and some Islamists don't. So what? Listen, let's get this straight.
The idea that Fundamentalist Islam poses any kind of serious threat to Western Capitalism is, quite simply, absurd. They may be capable of various hits now and again that damage our pride, make us scared etc, but the notion that the West is in serious danger of being enslaved under Sharia Law is stupid.
Osama Bin Laden is a Arab nationalist with particularly strong religious beliefs. He believes in self-determination in the Arabian peninsula, ending American involvement and 'Islamic states.' So have lots of people before him. He just happens to think the way to bring this about is to provoke a War with the West by engaging in 'terrorist' activity.
And another thing, this stuff about an 'alliance of liberals and socialists'. Fuck off! Liberalism and socialism are diametrically opposed. Classical liberalism is infused with disgusting class prejudice, casual racism of the worst sort and unthinking Imperialist hubris. Liberals intend to support and stengthten class society, whereas socialist seek to abolish it - where's the common ground? Let the liberals oppose it in their own way, and we'll do it in our way.
And don't give me this nonsense about 'defending the Enlightenment'. Only out of touch Marxian academics like Professor Geras could think that the major point of conflict in the modern age is between the proponents and detractors of the Enlightenment. I think we can safely assume that there are more important divisions in the world than whether one should defend Voltaire.
Still, at the end of the day, the real
divisions in the world, that is, class divisions, will always rise to the surface - despite the best efforts of obscurantists like Bush, Blair and Bin Laden.