[lbo-talk] Platypus: what we are, what we do, and why

James Heartfield Heartfield at blueyonder.co.uk
Fri Apr 9 16:58:09 PDT 2010

I tend to agree that Tariq Ali is a good man and oughtn't be traduced.

But Chris Cutrone is teaching us an important lesson that ought to be heard.

The decisive factor - and I mean the decisive factor - in contemporary political life is indeed the defeat of the left.

Left wing politics (no doubt flawed in many ways) was none the less a real factor determining the balance of social forces in the twentieth century.

Maybe that is not immediately apparent in the US, but in the world, the division between left and right, shaped the twentieth century.

If you want to understand why Islamism emerged (by default) as the most attention-grabbing movement in the developing world; if you want to understand why radicals have been so willing to laud reactionary movements like Hezbollah, Hamas or even Al Qaeda; if you want to understand why scientific and technological progress have become so loathed; or why working class consumption is so readily reviled there is one clear explanation:

The left wing alternative in the developing world, and the West, the movement that embraced progress, championed wage-claims, and reviled religious obscurantism is decidely on the back foot.

There is no point sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting the old radical slogans in the hope of drowning out the terrible news.

My only real difference with Chris Cutrone is that he does not seem to want to analyse the movement towards 'humanitarian imperialism' in the same terms, as the outcome of the left's collapse. If he did so, he would have a clearer understanding of the way that Fred Halliday, Kanan Makiya, Nick Cohen and Christopher Hitchens have all raised up the U.S. military as the vehicle of social progress that they no longer divine in the Stalinist camp, or in the Third World revolution that eluded them.

The case for progressive intervention, too, is an outcome of the left's confusion.

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