A Friendly Drink in a Time of War

A friend leaned across a bar and said, “You call the war in Iraq an antifascist war. You even call it a left-wing war-a war of liberation. That language of yours! And yet, on the left, not too many people agree with you.”

“Not true!” I said. “Apart from X, Y, and Z, whose left-wing names you know very well, what do you think of Adam Michnik in Poland? And doesn’t Vaclav Havel count for something in your eyes? These are among the heroes of our time. Anyway, who is fighting in Iraq right now? The coalition is led by a Texas right-winger, which is a pity; but, in the second rank, by the prime minister of Britain, who is a socialist, sort of; and, in the third rank, by the president of Poland-a Communist! An ex-Communist, anyway. One Texas right-winger and two Europeans who are more or less on the left. Anyway, these categories, right and left, are disintegrating by the minute. And who do you regard as the leader of the worldwide left? Jacques Chirac?-a conservative, I hate to tell you.”

My friend persisted.
“Still, most people don’t seem to agree with you. You do have to see that. And why do you suppose that is?”
That was an aggressive question. And I answered in kind.

“Why don’t people on the left see it my way? Except for the ones who do? I’ll give you six reasons. People on the left have been unable to see the antifascist nature of the war because . . . “-and my hand hovered over the bar, ready to thump six times, demonstrating the powerful force of my argument.

“The left doesn’t see because -” thump!-“George W. Bush is an unusually repulsive politician, except to his own followers, and people are blinded by the revulsion they feel. And, in their blindness, they cannot identify the main contours of reality right now. They peer at Iraq and see the smirking face of George W. Bush. They even feel a kind of schadenfreude or satisfaction at his errors and failures. This is a modern, television-age example of what used to be called ‘false consciousness.'”

Thump! “The left doesn’t see because a lot of otherwise intelligent people have decided, a priori, that all the big problems around the world stem from America. Even the problems that don’t. This is an attitude that, sixty years ago, would have prevented those same people from making sense of the fascists of Europe, too.”
Thump! “Another reason: a lot of people suppose that any sort of anticolonial movement must be admirable or, at least, acceptable. Or they think that, at minimum, we shouldn’t do more than tut-tut-even in the case of a movement that, like the Baath Party, was founded under a Nazi influence. In 1943, no less!”

Thump! “The left doesn’t see because a lot of people, in their good-hearted effort to respect cultural differences, have concluded tha...

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