Andrew Austin, Hitchens and the Left

Phil Ferguson plf13 at it.canterbury.ac.nz
Sat Sep 29 22:21:54 MDT 2001


Andrew Austin writes:

>Mine,
>
>
>How do my comments make me something less than anti-imperialist? What I am
>saying is that the left loses its credibility when it appears to blame the
>WTC attacks entirely on U.S. foreign policy (which many of our comrades are
>doing).


Well, it is rather difficult to imagine that these horrendous attacks would
have taken place if US foreign policy was not what it is.

I've no trouble with condemning the attacks - and not because they are a
misguided form of anti-imperialism, but because they are *entirely
reactionary*.  However, my condemnation of the attacks and my political
opposition to the people carrying out the attacks *and to what they stand
for* does not lead me to believe that the US government is anything other
than culpable for September 11.  They really are chickens coming home to
roost - the problem is that US foreign policy has created people as savage
as those who run the US and as lacking in respect for ordinary workers, who
were the prime victims of 11/9.


>Or worse, when it justifies the attack on that basis (which it
>sounds like we are doing).


Telling the truth about who is ultimately responsible for the September 11
attacks does not in any way mean justifying the attacks.  In fact, this
kind of claim is one that apologists for the imperialists make.  It has an
echo of Bush's propaganda about it.  Anyone who tries to contextualise the
attacks is themselves demonised as a supporter of them.


>The left looks stupid when people like Chomsky
>pile up two stacks of bodies and then draw a moral conclusion.


If the two stacks of bodies were the same height, this might make sense.
However, the stack of dead bodies from 11/9 is tiny compared to the stack
of bodies in Iraq caused by US imperialism and its allies (including NZ
imperialism).

The actual problem is the low political level of people in the United
States and the power and ability of US imperialism to ideologically
hegemonise large sections of the population.  If the left looks crazy, it
is because of those things, not because Chomsky is drawing mistaken
conclusions.

In fact, I am mightily impressed that people lke Chomsky, Zinn, Said,
Finkelstein and a handful of other intellectuals in the US have stood up
very well indeed to the pressure exerted by US government and media
propaganda.  Especially when seeing the way people like Christopher
Hitchens have capitulated completely.

On Friday I attended an all-day 'peace forum' at Canterbury University,
here in Christchurch, NZ.  It was a fairly wishy-washy affair, chaired by
the university chaplain.  An American middle-aged woman showed up and was
very angry.  She started raving on how, "I consider NZ to be a very
anti-American country" because we hadn't had a minutes silence for the
victims of September 11.  I interrupted that we hadn't had a minute's
offoical silence for the 1.5 million Iraqis murdered by US sanctions
either, and most of the room broke out in applause.  This was not a leftie
audience - in fact, three of us from 'revolution' magazine were the only
people present from any left groups.

We tend not to mix much with the left here, but have regular, every day
people as our mates.  Most of us have worked factory jobs and mixed a lot
with ordinary people.  Most of the current people in our group in
Christchurch are long-time karate people and mix with a wide range of other
people at karate and via schools our kids go to, jobs etc etc.  One of the
most interesting things here is that, although the NZ government (or
certainly the Labour component of it) has lined up with Washington, and we
have been deluged with CNN and other propaganda (eg, we had the WTC stuff
on TV here, on two of the main national TV channels non-stop, 24 hours a
day for several days), there is actually quite a broad public understanding
here of who bears ultimate responsibility for 11/9.

I don't believe it is too much to expect of ordinary Americans that they
should be able to contextualise these attacks.  However, it is vital that
the US left make exactly the points people on this list (and Chomsky,
Finkelstein, Said etc have) if that contextualisation is to take place
among ordinary Americans.  Giving ground to Bush certainly is not going to
help the necessary clarifying process.


>The left
>looks looney when it reduces everything bad in the world to U.S. support for
>Israel.

Perhaps you could tell us which leftists in the US have done this.  I have
read and re-read statements from Workers World Party, the International
Action Center and the International Socialist Organisation.  All three
statements were excellent.  I also browsed the rather turgid statements of
the Sparts and the Barnes Cult.  In none of these did I see anything
resembling what you claim above.

Philip Ferguson






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