The Left has traditionally proposed itself as a champion of women, minorities, gay rights, tolerance, social justice etc. Yet as we have witnessed since 9/11 and during the recent anti-war protests, the Left has ended up supporting regimes that are reactionary, oppressive and unjust. It sides with regimes that are the worst enemies of supposed Leftist values. Has the Left completely degenerated?
To discuss this question with us today, Frontpage Symposium has invited Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C.; Paul Hollander, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and author of Political Pilgrims, Anti-Americanism and most recently Discontents: Postmodern and Postcommunist; Stanley Aronowitz, a veteran political activist, cultural critic and a distinguished professor of sociology at the City University of New York; and Ted Glick, a noted activist, the national coordinator of Independent Progressive Politics Network and author of Future Hope: A Winning Strategy for a Just Society.
Interlocutor: Hello gentlemen, welcome to Frontpage Symposium. So during the anti-war protests, we saw a "peace" movement that was clearly not a peace movement at all. The Left clearly sided with a regime that was the worst enemy of supposed Leftist values. In many respects, the Left even appears to have become the fountainhead of anti-Semitism. How do we explain this degeneration of the Left? Or do you reject the underlying assumptions of these questions?
Hollander: I don’t think that the Western leftist support for repressive regimes is anything new -- it goes back to the Soviet Union under Stalin in the 1930s when it was at its most repressive. This was followed by support for 3rd world dictatorships such as Mao's China, Castro's Cuba, and the rest.
The Left would answer that when it supported these regimes their misdeeds were not known, or less known or that they had some positive features: anti-capitalism and hostility to the allegedly imperialist policies of the U.S.
"Fountainhead" of anti-Semitism is perhaps overstating the phenomenon; the left supports the Arab dictatorships or Palestinian cause mostly because they are anti-American, anti-Western. They dislike Israel because it is an outpost of Western values and an ally of the U.S.
Whatever movement or government is anti-Western will get some sympathy or support from the Left; or at least benefit of doubt. It is true that the Left was not outspokenly pro-Saddam (except perhaps Ramsey Clark) -- rather it ignored its horrendous record. But some of the "human shield" people went further, shaking their hands in front of cameras.
So I don’t think the Left "degenerated" -- its support for unsavory regimes and movements is longstanding (esp. if they mouth socialist-sounding ideas).
Aronowitz: Like conservatives and far-right tendencies the left is not a unified movement. Yes, some "anti-imperialist" leftists went so far as to defend the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Most found him despicable, but refused to go along with the Bush administration's Big Lie that the invasion was based on "evidence" that the regime had chemical and biological weapons and were on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. Among this group were many who hold to sacred principle of the right of nations to self-determination and argued that it was up to the Iraqi people to dispose of Saddam.
Finally some on the left might have supported military intervention if they were convinced the Bush administration intended to work for democratic self-government for the Iraqi people, and was not anxious to reward their corporate friends with big contracts for reconstruction (viz Cheney's Haliburton Corp's more than $7 billion contract, a fact hidden from the American people who were told that a "small" contract had been let to the company for the purposes of putting out oil fires. They (we) looked at Afghanistan and simply do not believe the administration gives a rat's ass about democracy.
So its much more complicated than your question implies Jamie.
Glick: With the exception of the last sentence of the interlocutor’s question, my gut response to the whole paragraph is essentially that this is a pile of bulls**t. It's an Alice in Wonderland approach to getting at the truth.
"Fountainhead of anti-Semitism?" I guess that's because many of us believe that the brutal and illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem should be ended. Note that even George Bush now has to act as if he wants to end that occupation. And on Iraq: the Left has NEVER supported Saddam Hussein, unlike Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, W's father and many others on the Right who had no problems with the guy for the entire decade of the '80s when he was a worse butcher than at any other time. What we and most of the world did was oppose an illegal war, a war built upon lie after lie (anyone on the Right found any of those WMD's yet that the war was all about?), a war about oil and empire, plain and simple. The Left hasn't degenerated. The Left did itself proud as it built a huge peace movement that is not going away.
Gaffney: The Left may or may not be a unified movement. But the professed adherence of most Leftists to the "sacred principle of the right of nations to self-determination" -- to say nothing of the fatuous notion that it was "up to" the Iraqi people to "dispose of Saddam" -- is evidence of how out of touch with reality they and their movement tend to be. With the generally fleeting exception of revolutionary conditions, the only circumstances in which there is anything approaching self-determination is in Western states with some form of representative governments.
Yet, the Left has historically tended to revile such nations, and most especially the United States, while relentlessly defending, excusing or apologizing for the least representative governments on the planet. This bizarre, not to say outrageous, stance was much in evidence in the de facto support for Saddam Hussein inherent in the Left’s claim that his own people -- impotent, brutalized and systematically repressed -- had exclusive responsibility for the removal of his depraved Ba’athist clique from power. Talk about "Big Lies"!
It is very much to be hoped that representative government will take hold in Iraq. If it does, however, the credit will largely be due to the Bush Administration’s policies -- not those of the anti-war Left which would, as a practical matter, have left Saddam in power indefinitely.
Aronowitz: I think the jury is out as to whether the Bush administration is capable of fostering representative government in Iraq. More likely is they will find "moderate Shiites" to collaborate with. This illusion of moderation is likely to evolve into full-scale control by the Muslim fundamentalists. The administration's early insistence on secular power is really not yet tested. If the Communists show any strength and their own preferred Iraqi National Congress proves to have a too narrow social base, they will certainly be driven into alliance with religious fundamentalists. Then, unwittingly perhaps, they will have been driven into another Iran circa 1979. I hope I am wrong.
Interlocutor: Thank you Stanley. Ted, both Paul and Frank have touched on an important theme: how the Left has always venerated despotic communists regimes –- from Stalin’s Russia to Mao’s China to Castro’s Russia. Does this tradition of the Left not disturb you?
Are you not somewhat concerned that the "anti-war" movement this time around was led by unreconstructed old style Stalinists and Maoists, whose current heroes include the likes of Kim Jong-Il? In being an "anti-war" activist, are you not somewhat embarrassed that you were represented by the likes of International ANSWER, a front for the Workers World Party which adores North Korea and which led the major demonstrations?
If the Nazi Party led the anti-war movement, would you not disassociate yourself from the movement – or at least denounce the people heading it? Are you ready to step forward now and renounce the totalitarians who led the peace marchers?
Glick: Here's one of the things that I said in my book about this issue: "We know from historical experience that the most noble of causes can turn sour, turn into its opposite, become a force of oppression rather than liberation. Individuals who once gave of themselves in heroic proportions can become hollow shells of their former selves, not to mention what can happen to once-revolutionary organizations. The difficulties faced by those who have come to power as a result of their commitment to social and economic justice have led many down the path of corruption in pursuit of personal power, wealth and privileges, or both."
Hollander and Interlocutor make broad-brush statements that have little relationship to the reality of the Left that I interact with on a daily basis and which is the "mainstream" of the Left. Many of the people and groups I work with are critical of various aspects, or the overall reality, of past and present-day governments that call(ed) themselves socialist. At the same time we see the whole picture: the reality of a very oppressive, unjust and repressive world order against which mass movements for justice have fought and will continue to fight. We understand that our job is to keep building those movements, learn from the mistakes and crimes of some of the past efforts to build alternatives to colonialism and capitalism, and maintain a critical and humble approach to this work.
There were three major national coalitions that made up the totality of the peace movement. International ANSWER, in which Workers World Party plays a major role, was one of them. I worked with and through United for Peace and Justice. The other group is Win Without War. The points that Interlocutor raises are related to why UFPJ and WWW came into being.
Gaffney: Ted understandably hopes to downplay the role played by Maoists and North Korean sympathizers in his movement. No less surprising is his failure altogether to mention the prominent part in the anti-war campaign afforded to organizations associated with causes, groups and individuals known as Islamists -- typically radical, violent, intolerant and rabidly anti-American ideologues masquerading as adherents to Islam.
When combined with the substantive errors that characterized much of the anti-war movement’s agitation (e.g., the war with Iraq is just about oil and empire, sanctions and inspections will eliminate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction programs, the United States is waging war unilaterally, the war will be a long and bloody affair, etc.) and its reflexive blame-America-first tenor, it is little wonder that the Left has largely discredited itself with the American public. The large numbers of those who participated in various anti-war demonstrations and presumably have no truck with either Stalinists or Islamists were badly served by those among the organizers who clearly do.
What Ted calls "the huge peace movement" did, when it counted, support Saddam Hussein. How? By the very act of opposing a war waged for the liberation of Iraq (manifestly not for oil or empire). When George W. Bush was seeking to muster an international coalition -- first through the United Nations then, when that failed (in part due to the Left's machinations), through a coalition of the willing -- the Left worked assiduously to save Saddam's bacon. That was surely the practical effect and, it would appear in at least some cases, the explicit purpose of those on the Left in Europe and here.
The overwhelmingly positive response of the Iraqi people to their liberation underscores the absurdity of the rationale offered at the time, namely a higher concern for the well-being of the Iraqi people. They are far better off, and so is the rest of the world, now that Saddam is no longer in power.
If the Left and the peace movement it has sorely mis-led really care about the suffering people of Iran, North Korea, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, the Palestinian Authority, etc., they would stop performing a similar role in propping up the Saddam-like despots who afflict these folks.
Glick: I agree that the people of Iraq are better off now that Saddam is no longer in power. The problem is that it looks like a case of "out of the frying pan, into the fire."
Anyone reading this who agrees with all of the lies and distortions in Gaffney's first paragraph in his previous statement -- well, all I can say is, you've either been hoodwinked or you're not honestly searching for the truth. That paragraph, to repeat my first entry in this "dialogue," is total bulls**t.
"The overwhelmingly positive response of the people of Iraq to their liberation"--well, I guess if all you do is watch Fox cable news that's probably what you'd think. The reality is that there was both a positive response from many people but, at the same time, apprehension about what role the United States was going to play. And the first 1month or so of occupation have only increased the apprehension and, indeed, increasingly angered large numbers of Iraqis.
Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Colin Powell and the Pentagon are to democracy and justice what Al Qaeda and Ariel Sharon are to tolerance and respect for diversity--total opposites.
Gaffney: Ted’s concession that the Iraqi people are better off today than they were under Saddam is an implicit, if obviously grudging, recognition that President Bush and his national security team did something constructive in liberating Iraq. It takes nothing away from that achievement to say that much still remains to be done. Those formerly enslaved by the Ba’athist regime can be at once grateful for their freedom and anxious about the future. Indeed, given so many uncertainties -- not least whether we, in an effort to counter the Left’s charges of U.S. colonial ambitions and interference with self-determination, will allow Islamist autocrats to replace Saddam’s secular despotism -- they would be foolish to be other than apprehensive.The moral equivalence Ted explicitly strikes between Al Qaeda terrorists on the one hand and, on the other, leaders of free countries striving to protect against their predations is so commonplace among the Left as to be unsurprising, yet so unsupported by the facts as to still be appalling.
Glick: Mr. Gaffney, don't overlook the "into the fire" part of the "out of the frying pan, into the fire" reality for the Iraqis.
As to the Bush administration doing something constructive for the Iraqi people, it's as if a torturer finally stops torturing and, instead, leaves the one he tortured alone for a short while. The torturing is the economic sanctions imposed for 12 years primarily because of the United States that did nothing to undercut Saddam Hussein's rule while killing 'a million or so people, according to the United Nations, and devastating Iraq's economy. So yes, it's a good thing that Hussein is gone--or is he?--but the blood of many innocent Iraqis is on the hands of both Clinton Administration and Bush Administration leaders.
As to my "moral equivalence," don't forget who made Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein (and Mobutu and the Duvalier family and Marcos and Ariel Sharon and Pinochet and General Ky, etc., etc., etc.) who they were: successive Republican and Democratic administrations who gave them major economic, military and political support. It is appalling the way that some people refuse to face those facts.
Gaffney: I have been as critical as anybody of past, bipartisan U.S. government policies that construed Saddam as a regional ally, left him in place at the end of Desert Storm and relied upon sanctions to control the threat his regime represented. I don't recall many on the Left joining me at any of these junctures in calling for the only effective alternative -- regime change in Iraq. Instead, the refrain heard from many on the Left (and, in fairness, some establishment Republican types) was "we have Saddam in a box"; "he is contained"; "give sanctions a chance to disarm/contain him"; "inspections will to the job"; etc. The blood of some number of Iraqis (do you really trust the UN on anything?) is surely on these hands, as well as those who held such views while in office.
It does seem to me that the sins of previous Democrat and Republican presidencies can only usefully be belabored for so long. This is not a question of refusing to "face the facts," although we obviously differ on some of them. It's just that I think we are well past that point. The question that people who want to be constructive -- as opposed to just indulging in endless, irrelevant carping -- comes down to this: George W. Bush has put American lives by the thousands into combat for the purpose of freeing other people. If he now gets the post-liberation part right (which would be made more likely by constructive suggestions and, where appropriate, criticism, rather than further, tedious and utterly unproductive name-calling), it should represent a foreign policy success that the Left and Right alike can extol.
Hollander: Let me get back to the issue of the peace movement for a moment. The fact of the matter is that the most vocal elements in recent peace movements always appeared to be convinced that Western capitalist democracies, and especially the U.S. were far worse, morally speaking than the regimes which called themselves socialist and used so version of Marxism-Leninism to legitimate themselves.
Of course the "Left" is not monolithic but much of it remains animated by the belief that capitalism and especially American style capitalism is the worst evil in history and the present. Anti-Globalism is the new version of this belief.
Interlocutor: Stanley and Ted, in terms of Prof. Hollander’s remarks, let’s get to the heart of the matter: do you believe that Western capitalist democracies, and especially the United States, are more oppressive and unjust than their present and past totalitarian enemies? Just as bad? No better? In your perspective, is there moral equivalency between American-style capitalism and Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the Taliban, Hussein, etc.?
Glick: There is no question but that the Western capitalist democracies have attributes, particularly in the area of individual rights, that are important to defend, especially now when the Ashcroft Justice Department is using the threat of terrorism to undercut those rights. And there is no question but that these countries have developed their economies in ways that have made possible, within those countries, higher standards of living, in economic terms, than is true in many other parts of the world. But that's just a part of the picture.
The full picture is that this wealth has been created to a significant degree because of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism. Those things, most still with us, have led to the wretched conditions of existence for huge numbers of people in the "Third World" and very real poverty for a minority in the United States. The U.S. and Europe have a very, very long history of supporting extremely authoritarian and repressive regimes throughout the Third World because those regimes allow multi-national corporations to extract resources and exploit local labor to their immense advantage. This very undemocratic model, and the economic damage done to those economies as a result, have then made it more difficult for revolutionary governments to evolve a democratic model of social change and, as I wrote of earlier, quoting from my book, "have led many down the path of corruption in pursuit of personal power, wealth and privileges, or both."
The bottom line: if the United States (and the other Western capitalist democracies) are truly interested in encouraging democratic and socially just societies elsewhere, they should practice what they (sometimes) preach. The U.S. is becoming increasingly unequal as far as the distribution of wealth (and power) and increasingly less democratic, to a very alarming and dangerous degree.
Hollander: Mr. Glick grudgingly acknowledges that capitalist democracies have certain advantages but his exposition makes clear that what he is really fixated on are their problems and blemishes -- this is what he calls the "bigger picture".
I am not an economist but there is little evidence to support his claim that the U.S. and other Western countries got rich because of their exploitation of what we call today 3rd world countries. These countries prospered because of their economic organization and the work ethic and level of education
of their population and long history of industrial development and have become less and less dependent on the raw materials of colonies and former colonies.
He would also like to blame current third world poverty and despotism on the U.S. and the West, but this is even more groundless than the former claim. In fact much of the economic malfunctioning, mismanagement and political repression in these parts has to do with attempts to create state-socialist economies and with the corruption of indigenous elites.
I do agree with him however that increasing levels of inequality in the U.S. have neither moral nor economic justification and are deplorable.
Gaffney: It is unclear to me how Ted's apparent enthusiasm for redistribution of wealth here in the United States is going to help us in any way overseas. The practical effect of taking such a step -- presumably through some form of socialism -- would be to render this country as weak economically and impotent militarily as others who have experimented disastrously with this failed theory.
Our best hope for bringing about real, lasting and positive changes in the world is to remain militarily strong ourselves, which is just one of the many compelling reasons for us to retain a thriving capitalist economy. If we wisely use the political influence that flows from our relative military and economic strength toward the end of helping others to develop and embrace the institutions and practices we know from our own experience are essential to domestic stability, regional tranquility and rising standards of living, chances are the world will be a better place. Certainly, it will be better off than if we become unable to exercise the sort of influence that comes, as a practical matter from strength, not weakness.
Glick: Mr. Hollander, with all due respect, your last rejoinder really makes me really wonder. To deny the centuries-long reality of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism when it comes to European and U.S. relationships with Africa, Latin America, Arab societies and Asia is truly amazing.
I agree that part of the problem in the countries of the Third World which gained their political independence over the course of the 20th century was/is the corruption of indigenous elites. They were corrupted by a method of rule that they learned from their former colonial masters. And the problem with the socialist model some of them used was not the "socialism" part but the lack of democracy, the authoritarian form of rule adopted by far too many of them.
Socialism without democracy is like sex without love: in the short run it might be exciting but, continued too long, it corrupts and dehumanizes.
Interlocutor: "Socialism without democracy is like sex without love: in the short run it might be exciting but, continued too long, it corrupts and dehumanizes." Geez, if only Marx, Lenin and Stalin had understood this. . . . What do the others make of Ted’s quotation/analogy?
Aronowitz: The analogy is equality without freedom, the mirror image of liberal democracies like the United States where we have a high degree of freedom (for a considerable proportion of the white working and middle classes, at least), but growing inequality. The historical socialist societies were--and are-- more equal than ours which meant that misery was more widely shared than in the West. But at the price of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, which is clearly unacceptable. You can't have real democracy--where citizenship means broad participation in public decision-making as well as voting--unless people have the resources, especially the time to engage in political life. No extant society has reached that standard of democracy. In the United States its mostly about money. If you ain’t got any, you're out. so we live in a plebicitatory democracy. Elections are acts of ratification of the consensus between the two pro-capitalist parties. As the late Tony Mazocchi said on the occasion of the formation of the Labor Party "the bosses have two parties Its about time we[working people] have our own party".
Gaffney: It seems to me a more apt analogy would be to "learning without knowledge" -- a prime example of which would appear to be the suggestion that true socialism is inherently compatible with democracy, just that some people forget to practice it that way.
Interlocutor: Let’s get back to the question of the "moral equivalency" that the Left always appears to impose on the West and the brutal dictators who oppose it. Stanley?
Aronowitz: Any dope knows that there has been more dissent permitted in the capitalist democracies than authoritarian socialist countries. I would not (yet) trade my US citizenship for any other. Having said that I note that we are now faced with the most concerted attempted to roll back civil liberties since the McCarthy era. I do not believe that repression in the United States has reached its apex. But I want to know whether individuals, such as our two guests Paul Hollander and Frank Gaffney, are for the repeal of the Patriot Act and are opposed to Patriot 2. I want to know whether they oppose the Bush administration's detention of thousands of immigrants on suspicion of terrorism, without charges.
The comparison of US civil liberties, or, indeed those enjoyed by dissenters in any Western democracy, with the totalitarian dictatorships of Saddam’s Iraq, China and the alleged socialist societies of Asia, Africa and Saudi Arabia, is a red herring. Individuals such as Hollander and Gaffney should not confuse me with the authoritarian left. I am a libertarian. Are they?
Interlocutor: So Paul and Frank, what are your positions on the Patriot Act and Patriot 2? Am I missing something here, or aren’t we at war? And if are at war, and there are people who want do things like fly more suicide missions into our heavily populated buildings, don’t we have to cut down on certain "liberties" in our society?
Hollander: First, I did not accuse of Prof. Aronowitz of supporting radical left regimes. I have no great familiarity with his politics but have no difficulty believing that he belongs to the democratic left such as Irving Howe represented who felt no compunction about being a vocal anti-communists.
As to Patriot Act 2 I simply don’t know what is envisaged.
As to the first Patriot Act I also believe, with Jamie, that some restraints on civil liberties must be accepted when the threat of terrorism is considerable. And yes, some groups are more likely to produce terrorists than others. Hence for example I would favor some intelligent profiling at airports so
that old ladies in wheel chairs would not be frisked (as I had observed).
Part of the problem is that when an administration that is abhorred does these things (restricts civil liberties in some measure) this is far less acceptable than it would be if someone else would be in the White House.
Gaffney: I am very much in favor of the first Patriot Act. I believe that its provisions, together with revisions to Justice Department guidelines observed since the 1970's, have been necessary and fully justified responses to the sorts of terrorist threats we now face. I also believe that they have entailed, to date, quite modest impositions on civil liberties that I hold as dear as anyone.
As to a second Patriot Act, I am unaware that one has been unveiled as yet and am, therefore, unable to comment on its acceptability. I certainly would not want to do so on the basis of leaks of various documents that may or may not ever be formally proposed.
I would submit, however, that if one cares about the freedoms that make this country great, you better hope that the sorts of enhanced latitude for cooperation between the law enforcement and intelligence communities and other measures made possible by the Patriot Act continue to prevent cataclysmic terrorist attacks against this country. After all, should such an attack eventuate, it seems to me likely that popular demand would be intense for further and much more draconian measures that would really impinge upon our liberties -- quite possibly including in ways that both libertarians and conservatives like myself who are not libertarians would find distressing.
Aronowitz: Are we at war? And even so, does that condition justify the detention of thousands of Japanese Americans during world war two for which the Federal government apologized? Or the persecution of the Communist Party, a legal organization, during the McCarthy era which elements were finally struck down by the Supreme Court? The Court exonerated the party but not before lives were ruined, jobs were lost, years spent for some in prison.
Will the United States government ever do anything right, from the perspective of civil liberties? My interlocutors seem to be prepared to excuse any calumny perpetrated by a government that declares "war" against whatever enemy appears to justify its policies. Messrs Hollander and Gaffney seem entirely supine in the face of the Patriots. FYI. Patriot 2, not yet passed, would give virtually unlimited powers to federal security agencies to surveille, investigate, detain and otherwise harass any American citizen suspected of aiding and abetting "terrorism", the new name for dissent. Yes, in 1993 and 2001 America suffered genuine terrorist acts. Also in Oklahoma City. But we don't see members of the militia detained without charges. Any lessons here?
Interlocutor: Stanley, you ask: "Are we at war?" If I may: what is it exactly that 9/11 means to you? What does it mean to you when a terrorist extremist Muslim organization declares holy war on the United States?
In terms of Japanese internment, do you recognize the moral superiority of America in terms of:
[a] that unlike in totalitarian regimes where people would just be exterminated in mass numbers, the internment was cruel and unjust, but nothing compared to the mass crimes that the totalitarian enemies of America have engaged in and do engage in
[b] in the sense that the mistake has been officially acknowledged and restitution attempted, we see a noble collective and governmental attempt that would never be found in the societies ruled by America’s past and present enemies, where far greater crimes have been committed -- and not even in wartime?
In terms of your indignation regarding the "persecution" of the Communist Party during the McCarthy era, you are aware, I presume, that this particular "Party" represented (and represents) a system and ideology that is responsible for 100 million liquidated lives in the 20th century. I am curious: would you show the same indignation if, instead of the Communist Party, the American government "persecuted" the Nazi Party in the same manner, if Nazism posed a threat from abroad? Do you, by any chance, see communism as being any less evil than Nazism?
Stanley, you are aware, I suppose, that although common sense and the facts before our eyes always told us the obvious, that post-Cold War revelations, including documents from the Soviet archives, the Venona transcripts etc., now prove beyond reasonable doubt that the genocidal Soviet regime was extremely successful in infiltrating all levels of the American government and that the CPUSA was intimately (and illegally) tied to the USSR. So, in terms of national security and fighting an evil regime that was bent on burying us, the "persecution" of the Communist Party in America was certainly legitimate. Right? How could you possibly argue otherwise?
Aronowitz: If the United States is at war against terrorism, our homeland security provisions constitute near-treasonous behavior. I travel a lot by plane and train and, in most places, security is virtually identical to pre-9/11. Go to New York's tallest building the Empire State; its business as usual. I am for more security. The problem is that the Bush administration has mistargeted immigrants and political dissenters by detaining them without charges and unnecessary force during demonstrations. During the Iraq war Republicans in Washington and the mayor of New York refused permits and had to be embarrassed to grant them.
Yes, the US government apologized for its treatment of Japanese internees during world war two. And some president (not Bush) will undoubtedly apologize for the senseless detentions since 9/11. Too little recompense for stupid policies and certainly too late.
The American Communist Party was a legal party during which the repressions were undertaken in the late 1940s and early 1950s. As such its rights were abrogated. Finally the Supreme Court nullified most of the anti-communist laws and many convictions of its leaders. I believe that a democratic society is marked by its tolerance of even the most odious ideologies. I am for the right of Nazis to march through urban streets, the right of homophobic St. Patrick's Day marchers to bar anyone they please from their parade.
Many on the Left and even more on the Right disagree with civil libertarian policies. They are authoritarians who will tolerate only a limited range of views. My position is that as long as views are expressed in ways that do not harm others, they should be aired in the public arena.
Gaffney: It may be correct to describe as "authoritarians" those on the Left who disagree with civil libertarian policies. It is certainly not true of many on the Right who treasure our civil liberties and yet recognize that some rights -- and particularly those claimed by illegal aliens hailing from countries in which anti-American and Islamist terror is endemic -- may have to be circumscribed somewhat while we are at war. This has become all the more necessary in light of the cunning with which murderous terrorists have been exploiting our freedoms to penetrate our society and facilitate their attacks against it.
Mr. Aronowitz appears to bemoan unacceptable impositions on our civil liberties even as he criticizes the absence of more intrusive constraints on our freedoms (e.g., at public buildings, etc.) This confusion not only demonstrates the difficulty of striking the right balance; it also makes clear that the U.S. government is trying to do just that.
Hollander: The outlook of Prof. Aronowitz, as that of many on the left, is dominated by a heightened capacity for moral indignation about the ills and flaws of American society and its government, but dismissive of threats against it. He will continue to give more weight to these shortcomings than to the most massive human rights violations elsewhere or to acts of political violence originating abroad on the part of those who detest this government not for that it does but for what it is and represents.
Since he deeply dislikes this system he is not likely to worry as much about the threats against it as those who take a more positive view of it. I am not suggesting that he favors or supports terrorism; I am merely pointing at a disposition. He is also likely to devalue the claims of threats against this much despised system made by authorities he suspects and doesn’t consider legitimate.
Aronowitz: My comments go to scepticism as to whether the Bush administration is really interested in national security. I do not believe we are more vulnerable than the French, the Israelis or, indeed any other European country. But they have real security without abrogating civil liberties. The US government targets two groups: immigrants and dissenters. We, on the other hand, pose liberties against security, a reflection of the either/or thinking characteristic of American political culture.
There is no balance when American citizens are detained without charges, when excessive force is used on protesters, when visas are denied literary figures and parliamentarians from other ountries who oppose American foreign policy. The Bush doctrine: you are either for us or against us. It seems to give license to law enforcement officials to shred the constitution.
Interlocutor: Ok, gentlemen, this is the last question.
Let me be a little long-winded for a second, because I would like to crystallize our main theme:
During the war, many protestors professed their solidarity with a totalitarian regime dedicated to fascist traditions. Radical protesters waved Iraqi flags, marched side-by-side with Islamic fanatics, fascists and anti-Semites. Posters of Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin and other despots were everywhere in view and on many occasions the demonstrators called for American troops to shoot their own officers.
This is all directly related to one key phenomenon:
I have been around Leftists all of my life. All of these years, I have heard, among other things, the endless professions of many feminists I know about women’s rights, how no one has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body, how Jerry Falwell and all the other religious "despots" better stay out of women’s business, sexual realm etc, how women need to liberate themselves from patriarchy etc etc etc.
But now, enter 9/11, and all of a sudden, every single one of these feminists, and I mean every single one, regurgitates the same themes every time I speak with them: how none of us have a right to say anything critical about the burqa, how the Taliban have their own culture and we have no right to impose our Western ways of thinking on that culture or any other culture (anti-Western of course), how the burqa is better than the objectification and sexualization of women in Western culture etc.
Not too long ago, a feminist, almost word for word, explained to me:
"The burqa is great. You get up in the morning. You throw it over your PJs [pajamas], you go to the local store and no one whistles at you or bothers you. Then the men help you carry the groceries out of the store, and then you are home. It’s great. And you feel so safe. . . .and you are not judged for how you look."
My eyes glazed over listening to this, as my feminist acquaintance seemed to be missing a little matter that all of her like-minded comrades miss out on: peoples’ right to have personal choice – women’s right to have personal choice. . . .the kind of right these same feminists have been obsessively insisting for themselves for decades.
I don’t know one Leftist who was bursting with anger and publicly espousing his moral indignation about how the Taliban treated homosexuals, and yet, these same people have been championing gay rights for years.
Every Leftist I know hates the idea of religion mixing with politics. You mention Christianity being in our schools and a volcano of rage erupts in them. But today, I cannot find one Leftist who will, aloud, in front of all his other Leftist friends, pronounce that militant Islam represents a vital threat because of its imposition of religious theocracy.
Can my guests kindly help me understand the psychology of these radicals. What motivates my feminist acquaintance that now not only makes excuses for, but champions, the burqa – and yet doesn’t wear one herself (although a good argument could be made that, in terms of her particular case, it might not be that bad of an idea).
Why the silence of Western radicals and feminists regarding polygamy in Islamic cultures? What does it mean when leftists champion regimes and ideologies that seek to extinguish Leftist values themselves?
Aronowitz: Well, on the right, most specifically, the Bush administration, we have a locust of followers of Leo Strauss, the University of Chicago political philosopher who was an ardent opponent of democracy and of secular polity. The list of Bush appointees seems endless beginning, of course, with Paul Wolfowitz, one of the leading architects of the administration's Middle Eastern policy. If he runs true to form, we can expect a new alliance between the US government and "moderate" fundamentalists, rather than a genuine effort to establish a secular Iraqi government. After all Bush himself is a fundamentalist Christian, although I doubt he could read Strauss whose inspiration is Plato and Aristotle.
Now as to the left. It goes to anti-imperialism. If imperialism, not chiefly colonialism but the exploitation of natural resources such as oil at the expense of indeginous people, is evil and the the United States is an imperialist country, then the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It’s the mirror image of US Cold War policy where Rumsfeld once embraced Saddam and Carter was a friend of the Shah because they were anti-Soviet. So, many on the left who had no use for the Iraqi dictator hoped he would mobilize resistance against the US invasion.
The second element of the psychology is that the Left does not trust that the Right tells the truth, e.g. the baloney about chemical and biological weapons as the motivation for the war. Nor is the US government believed when it says that human rights is its main motive, after the chemical and biological weapons were not found. Apart from the rational grounds for distrust, as a relatively powerless formation, at least in the United States, many of the left hold that rulers are engaged in promulgating a Big Lie on nearly every count.
The Straussians know what this is. The public cannot be trusted to hear the genuine motives for policy :in the clash of civilizations, the West, particularly the US is justified because of its Judeo-Christian morality while the infidels of Islam are, in the words of Francis Fukuyama, a follower of the hegelian Alexandre Kojeve, "pre-modern".
Now needless to say, most leftists are ignorant of Strauss, Kojeve and have only heard of, but not read Fukuyama and Hegel. Yet, there is enough smoke to validate the suspicion of fire. Call it paranoia or healthy scepticism, but the long experience of the Cold War has convinced leftists from 15 yrs old to 90 that from the "bought press" to official government sources, what you see is not what you get.
Gaffney: I feel ill-equipped and, in any event, disinclined to psychoanalyze what now passes for the mindset of the Left. It’s one thing to dissect the silly and often insidious things Leftists do and say. It is another thing altogether to assign or even assess motivations behind such behavior.
Having said that, my sense is that the vast majority of people who consider themselves on the liberal side of the spectrum are there less as a result of independent, to say nothing of rigorous, thought than from going with the "blame-America-first" flow so manifest in much of academia, the media elite and baby-boomer-dominated social circles. I suspect that most of those our interlocutor has been confounded by are products of such political correctness, and not much time need be spent trying to fathom what passes for their thought-processes. They seem ignorant of the absurd convolutions their party lines demand (e.g., the feminist defense of the burqa).
There are, of course, some who pride themselves on having arrived at left-wing stances via more intellectual processes. The sorts of peer pressure noted above may explain why thoughtful, even intelligent individuals put themselves in the service of the sorts of anti-American, pro-Saddam (or other totalitarians) agitation, despite the utter bankruptcy of such postures.
It can only be hoped that -- as the virtues of this country (even after taking into account its shortcomings, particularly its historical ones) and the odiousness of its enemies become ever more manifest -- more of the intellectual vanguard of the Left will have the integrity and personal fortitude to follow the lead of one of their most eminent former comrades: Christopher Hitchens. By publicly endorsing President Bush’s efforts to liberate Iraq, Hitchens has demonstrated that the principles of individual rights and social justice are no longer being advanced by mindless adherence to the nostrums of the radical Left.
Hollander: I hate to say it, but this is a topic (the psychology of radicals) I have written about a lot in several books and doubt that I can add anything new. I still think that the key to the contradictions and double standards noted by Jamie in his closing comments is a very deep dislike of their own (American or Western) society whose enemies become their friends, whether Stalinist regimes or Islamic fanatics.
But the key question is where this hostility comes from? Some of it doubtless from a contemplation of the flaws and injustices of American/Western societies. But I don’t think that by itself is sufficient explanation. I rather think that American society and culture has from its earliest days generated expectations about the attainment of personal happiness and social bliss that cannot be attained. It is this conflict between the expectations and realities that makes our radical social critics so angry. In addition there are the familiar problems of modernity -- less of community, personal isolation, decline of sustaining values etc etc -- which creates unhappiness. On top of all this, Western radicals are not particularly well informed about life in other societies -- no comparative-historical standards help to control their indignation and put into a perspective the ills of American society.
There is yet another theory advanced decades ago by the historian David Potter who suggested that the general decline of authority in modern societies makes it easier to shift the blame for personal problems unto society and its diminished authorities; this is a very incomplete summary of his ideas on the subject discussed in his HISTORY AND AMERICAN SOCIETY (1973). Another approach: social determinism has become popularized since the 1960s making it easier to blame various social forces for personal problems. This is a huge topic but these brief comments suggest some explanations of the psychology of radicals.
Glick: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." A great man once said this. Interlocutor's comments remind me of it.
Interlocutor's long-winded, yes, very much so, and, I would say, ideologically-, not factually-driven, comments discount virtually everything I've said up to now during this dialogue. From beginning to end of his comments he puts forward a description of what he calls "the Left" that is manifestly inaccurate. "Posters of Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin and other despots were everywhere in view," and "on many occasions the demonstrators called for American troops to shoot their own officers"—these are bald-faced lies, plain and simple. Anyone who would make such statements is not someone interested in either truth or dialogue. So if this is what Interlocutor means by "dialogue," thanks but no thanks. This'll be my last one with Frontpage Symposium.
To find out about the mindset you claim to be trying to understand, I'd suggest some personal counselling.
Interlocutor: Ted, the anti-war demonstrations on both sides of the Atlantic brought out anti-American zealots of all kinds and many of these protests, as you know, were led by communists. For instance, the Workers World Party staged anti-American rallies in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, on January 18th. As in the other protests, factions were there that hoped for Hussein’s victory. If you find it a mystery what images these groups represented their activism with, and what pamphlets they handed out, I do not know what to tell you.
If you think it is a "bald-faced" lie that, in many instances, anti-war demonstrators called for the victory of the other side, which included the theme of calling for American troops to shoot their own officers, then I encourage you to go study the ingredients of what actually happened at the demonstrations. Here is just one example of what I am talking about – a picket sign of leftists stating, "We Support Our Troops When They Shoot Their Officers." This inspiring banner was prominently featured at the Feb. 15th protest in San Francisco. Take a look at the sign in the graphic for this symposium on our front page and please tell me what the protestors are saying and where their loyalties lie.
The point I am emphasizing is the ideological leanings of the anti-war activists. What does it mean that, at the February anti-war fest in New York on February 15, no guest speaker that day received a louder ovation than Angela Davis? What does it mean that there were numerous Communist publications being handed out and sold to the throngs of people? Why were the other attendees not profusely denouncing these people?
Why does the Left venerate America’s despotic opponents and wish for their victory? Why is there a rising involvement between Leftists and anti-Semites? Michael Tremoglie’s The "Peace" Movement's Korean Connection, John Perazzo’s Maoists for "Peace", Ben Johnson’s The Antiwar Movement's Nazi Connection and Brian Sayre's Fascists, Communists Unite Against President Bush have all dealt with these questions. This symposium hoped to extract more observations and deductions.
When cornered about these issues, most leftists usually mumble something about how the groups I am discussing represent a "fringe" element and do not "represent" the Left. But what else "represents" the Left when almost all of their rallies are organized and led by communists -- and the communist speakers get the loudest ovations? What does it mean when, in many of these demonstrations, the Imams chant "Allahu Ahkbar" -- the chant the suicide bombers use as they blow up innocent men, women and children – and then radical protestors chant right along with them? Why don’t they boo and walk away?
These are, I think, the pertinent questions that the Left must answer today. And we tried to reach some of these answers today. We are out of time, unfortunately. Ted, if you would like to continue a discussion on these questions with us, you are most free to come back to Frontpage Symposium, as are our other guests, and we can zero in on this phenomenon. It was a pleasure to have all of you join us for this edition of Frontpage Symposium. Thank you Ted, Stanley, Paul and Frank, it was a pleasure to have you here. Take care for now.
Did the Left Go Too Far on Iraq? Guests: Jeffrey Herf, Thomas Spencer, Judith Klinghoffer and Ted Glick.
The Fall of Saddam: What We Learned About Ourselves and Our Enemy. Guests: As'ad AbuKhalil, Daniel Brumberg, Jonathan V. Last and Stanley Kurtz.
Stalin and Saddam. Guests: Vladimir Bukovsky, Yuri Yarim-Agaev, Mary Habeck, Louis Menashe and Jonathan Brent.
The Iraq War and the Lessons of Vietnam. Guests: