Self-critique is my favorite kind!

My daily newspaper has posted a great link to an issue of Politics and Culture that concerns a book called The Left at War that I have seen on the shelves a few times but have never gotten around to picking up. Insofar as the author seems to seek an end to that weird state of affairs on the Left in which rage is a complacent emotion (as long as Verso still pays decent advances?), I think I may give it a read, someday.

So far, most of what I have read concerns relativism and the weird spectacle of Western hard-Leftists supporting, well, assholes. Fortunately I don't get to meet too many of these people, though I have had some uncomfortable conversations about Israel in my lifetime (as one writer says, since the Left, via identity politics, can sometimes conflate individuals with groups, I, raised Jewish, have had the distinct displeasure of having been called, by purported anti-racists, to answer for "my people").

To paraphrase Churchill: Westernized countries are the worst in the world, except for all the others. To paraphrase The Simpsons: The Western intellectual tradition: the cause of and solution to all of life's problems. As a Marxist who hasn't read much Marx but has done so seemingly better than most, I tend to agree with his belief that countries should be Capitalist before Socialist (and it makes sense to me, if only because excess capacity is a great way to tackle the social ills of industrialization, if only "we" could get our hands on it). So, sadly, if I were to explain all my thoughts on Israel and on the Middle East, I would be derided as a mere liberal. Two-state solution, yadda yadda yadda.

But not quite liberal, too. Via Paul Hollander's essay comes this quote from the original book:

That then is my hope: for a democratic-socialist, international left that seeks not to smash the state and crush capitalism but to pursue human equality and realized [sic] the four freedoms. It would not be a fully 'socialist' left in the sense that it would not institute central economic planning; it would be aggressively redistributionist, and it would harbor no illusions about 'free' markets. It would insist that food, shelter, education and medical care are human rights, and as such, must not be contingent upon anyone's ability to pay for them; it would put workers in control of factories and companies... It would... establish an egalitarian and closely monitored and regulated market that fosters innovations and promotes policies that bring food, clean water, housing, schooling and medicine to all as well as establishing forms of democracy that extend to every person... This would be something of a disappointment to those radicals whose utopian longings led them to cry 'be realistic, demand the impossible...'. (253)
Sounds nice to me too. In fact, that sounds nice to a LOT of people around the world. In fact, I think the majority of people want that! Billions, at minimum! Wow, with all that popular support, getting all that to happen should be easy! Oh no? Huh? Why not? Oh! OK well, then, smash the state and crush capitalism!*
*Ok so forgive me for not really engaging here but it seems like what is being described already existed for a few decades in the middle of the twentieth century... for a few people, at least... and look how that went.
Your utopian longings are just as impossible as mine. Either we get to decide that our dreams come true or we don't.

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