Has anyone noticed an indifference in the precincts of the far Left to the fatalities of 9/11 and the horrors of Saddam Hussein?
Right after the 9/11 attack, German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen called it "the greatest work of art for the whole cosmos." Eric Foner, an ornament of Columbia University's Marxist firmament, trivialized it by announcing himself unsure "which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House." Norman Mailer called the suicide hijackers "brilliant."
More recently, it appears that none of the millions of antiwar demonstrators have a bad word to say about Saddam Hussein nor an iota of sympathy for those oppressed, tortured and murdered by his regime. Instead, they vent fury against the American president and British prime minister.
Why is the Left nonchalant about the outrages committed by al Qaeda and Baghdad?
Lee Harris, an Atlanta writer, offers an explanation in a recent issue of the Hoover Institution's journal, Policy Review. He does so by stepping way back and recalling Karl Marx's central thesis about the demise of capitalism resulting from an inevitable sequence of events:
- Business profits decline in the industrial countries
- Bosses squeeze their workers;
- Workers become impoverished;
- Workers rebel against their bosses, and
- Workers establish a socialist order.
Everything here hangs on workers growing poorer over time - which, of course, did not happen. In fact, Western workers became richer (and increasingly un-revolutionary). By the roaring 1950s, most of the Left realized that Marx got it wrong.
But rather than give up on cherished expectations of socialist revolution, Harris notes, Marxists tweaked their theory. Abandoning the workers of advanced industrial countries, they looked instead to the entire populations of poor countries to carry out the revolution. Class analysis went out the window, replaced by geography.
This new approach, known as "dependencia theory," holds that the First World (and the United States above all) profits by forcefully exploiting the Third Word. The Left theorizes that the United States oppresses poor countries; thus Noam Chomsky's formulation that America is a "leading terrorist state."
For vindication of this claim, Marxists impatiently await the Third World's rising up against the West. Sadly for them, the only true revolution since the 1950s was Iran's in 1978-79. It ended with militant Islam in power and the Left in hiding.
Then came 9/11, which Marxists interpreted as the Third World (finally!) striking back at its American oppressor. In the Left's imagination, Harris explains, this attack was nothing less than "world-historical in its significance: the dawn of a new revolutionary era."
Only a pedant would point out that the suicide hijackers hardly represented the wretched of the earth; and that their objectives had nothing at all to do with socialism and everything to do with - no, not again! - militant Islam.
So desperate is the Left for some sign of true socialism, it overlooks such pesky details. Instead, it warily admires al Qaeda, the Taliban and militant Islam in general for doing battle with the United States. The Left tries to overlook militant Islam's slightly un-socialist practices - such as its imposing religious law, excluding women from the workplace, banning the payment of interest, encouraging private property and persecuting atheists.
This admiring spirit explains the Left's nonchalant response to 9/11. Sure, it rued the loss of life, but not too much. Dario Fo, the Italian Marxist who won the 1997 Nobel Prize for literature, explains: "The great [Wall Street] speculators wallow in an economy that every year kills tens of millions of people with poverty, so what is 20,000 dead in New York?"
The same goes for Saddam Hussein, whose gruesome qualities matter less to the Left than the fact of his confronting and defying the United States. In its view, anyone who does that can't be too bad - never mind that he brutalizes his subjects and invades his neighbors. The Left takes to the streets to assure his survival, indifferent both to the fate of Iraqis and even to their own safety, clutching instead at the hope that this monster will somehow bring socialism closer.
In sum: 9/11 and the prospect of war against Saddam Hussein have exposed the Left's political self-delusion, intellectual bankruptcy and moral turpitude.
Aug. 19, 2003 update: For more examples of this phenomenon, see "The Left ♥ CAIR, MPAC, et al."
June 17, 2004 update: And for pictoral representations, see "The Leftist-Islamist Alliance in Pictures."
Nov. 27, 2006 update: Michel Gurfinkiel, executive chairman of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute in Paris, further explores this theme in "Another French Revolution? The rioters and their admirers—on the right and the left." Writing about the recent riots in France, he notes that
one finds much support for the rioters among the predominantly white and non-Muslim parties of the far left: the two Trotskyite parties, what is left of the old Communist party, and the Greens. Even among the far right activists—for whom hatred of America, Israel, and the "free-market European Union" tends to outweigh any other consideration—there is support for the gangs.
Indeed, there are intellectuals on the left and right who relish the prospect of a new French Revolution, and welcome the suburban rioters as its spearhead. Nothing is more revealing, in this respect, than the success of a feverish political novel, Supplément au roman national (A Sequel to the National Narrative), by 28-year-old author Jean-Éric Boulin. Published two months ago, it forecasts a "social and racial" revolution in France in 2007. First a wave of suicide bombings in Paris. Then martial law. Then, finally, the great rebellion of the French poor: the native underclass, the Arabs, and the blacks, who unite under the green flag of Islam and the tricolor of France and march on Paris—as a sort of Commune in reverse. Boulin gallantly supports such an outcome.
July 14, 2008 update: I survey the general "[Islamist-Leftist] Allied Menace" today in the National Review.