Written by Ronald Radosh
March 5, 2009
By Ronald Radosh
After 9/11, the social-democratic political philosopher, Michael Walzer, asked the readers of Dissent magazine a tough question: "Can there be a decent Left?" His essay was in reality an appeal for its creation, since Walzer was smart enough to realize that so many who spoke in the name of the Left that horrific year were anything but. But now, so many years later, little has changed. If anyone has any doubts about this, there is no better place to start than Jamie Glazov's important new book, United in Hate.
Glazov discusses both the philosophical underpinnings of the leftist world-view and the current form it's taking in the U.S. Starting from the premise that existing reality in democratic America has to be destroyed and that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," large segments of the left today seek to forge an alliance with America's enemies, once the Communist world, now the forces of radical Islam. Glazov traces and seeks to analyze the causes of this movement from the left's support of "the red flag of proletarian revolution" to that of the "black flag of Islamic jihad."
In many cases, Glazov shows how the same people who once sang the praises of Stalin as an anti-fascist leader now praise Islamic terrorists who seek to attack the West. While many learned from 9/11 that the West had real and very dangerous enemies, major figures of the once pro-Soviet Left apparently felt rejuvenated, viewing the attack on the twin towers as the revenge of the masses for American oppression of the Third World. For these people, Glazov writes, 9/11 was a "personal vindication," since they saw "only poetic justice in American commercial airplanes plunging into American buildings packed with people."
Now, they hoped that the project they thought had failed -- the replacement of democratic capitalism with a revolutionary socialist society -- might again have legs. Somehow the fact that radical Islam seeks to return the world to the seventh century as the basis of the social order, does not seem to faze them. Now, at least, they had a movement they could support which would enable them to realize the goal they once had -- the destruction of capitalism and the collapse of the United States.
Hence, we find that Tom Hayden, who in the1960's supported victory for Ho Chi Minh's forces and praised Communist Vietnam as a "rice-roots democracy," traveled to London to meet with and embrace the Iraqi advocate of terror Muqtada al-Sadr; the left-wing MP George Galloway traveled to Syria and offered public support to every enemy of the United States, from America's opponents in Iraq to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. One must first ask what leads those who benefit from every freedom the West affords to endorse its most totalitarian opponents, and to falsely depict them as freedom fighters -- as the filmmaker Michael Moore once called Saddam's fighters in Iraq?
The answer is provided by Glazov in a chapter that takes off from the kind of philosophical analysis the popular longshoreman author Eric Hoffer became famous for in the 1950's. Hoffer explored the question: What makes some people true believers? I recall that the Left of the time excoriated him as a simpleton who tried to deflect Americans from supporting opposition movements by describing its members unjustly as fanatics. Glazov will do well if his critics compare him to Hoffer, who in fact was quite effective in exposing the hypocrisies of the pro-Soviet fellow-travelers.
Like Hoffer's Western pro-communists, when the truth emerges about what life is like under fundamentalist Islam, many leftists publicly deny the reports -- as much of the Left did when it first learned about the horrors Pol Pot inflicted on Cambodia. Privately, Glazov argues, the Leftist approves of what has taken place. Indeed, Glazov emphasizes, the violence and horror is what "attracts him in the first place." They know that without it, the eventual earthly paradise will never be born. After all, as the Bolsheviks used to argue, "you can't cook an omelet without breaking eggs."
Glazov mentions the response of the once famous pro-Soviet and later Maoist apologist Anna Louise Strong, who was herself for a while under suspicion of being an American agent. Glazov notes that Strong was undisturbed by the arrests and deaths of her own friends in the Stalinist purges. I once attended a talk of hers in New York City, to which she arrived after Stalin kicked her out of the USSR and condemned her as a spy. Most of the Left viewed her as a traitor, and few people went to her appearance. I was one of them. What Strong told the audience -- and I will never forget this -- was that she viewed herself as part of a group of flies in the way of an ongoing train. The train had to get to the station; it did not matter if some of them were killed as the train moved towards its destination. At least Strong was consistent. Even when she herself was falsely accused of being an American agent -- she justified all that had been said against her as necessary for the revolution's success. Or as Glazov explains this phenomenon: "Because believers consider themselves higher life forms, their inferiors become not only expendable, but necessary waste."
Having established how the Left thinks about the world, Glazov proceeds to document the Old and New Left's support of Marxist tyrannies, from Lenin's and then Stalin's Soviet Union to Mao's China and Castro's Cuba and the Sandinista's Nicaragua in the 1980's. It is a familiar story, one however that still unfortunately needs retelling, so that new generations learn the lessons so many have seemed to forget. (or perhaps never learned.) One always finds surprise and shock at how so many supposedly learned and respected thinkers became willing dupes of those who were among the 20th Century's major monsters and killers. One feels embarrassed to read of the stupidities uttered by the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Duranty and others. And yet, when times change and even the leftist remnant acknowledges that their ancestors were perhaps naÃ¯ve -- although of course correct to defend the idea of the Soviet revolution -- they repeat the pattern when it comes to the new tyrannical regimes they support.
The New Left took pride that it saw through the myths of Soviet Communism. It could not say the same when it came to the new regimes modeled on the old Communist ones. "The New Leftists of the sixties and seventies renewed," Glazov writes, "...the Left's tradition of venerating and visiting death cult tyrannies." A diverse group including Noam Chomsky, Norman Mailer, Simone de Beauvoir, Shirley MacLaine and others fell in love with the regimes they favored: Cuba, China and Nicaragua. Many forget that the late Susan Sontag, acclaimed by so many as one of our greatest cultural figures and intellectuals, wrote that "the Cuban revolution is astonishingly free of repression." On Vietnam, Sontag wrote that "Vietnam offered the key to a systematic criticism of America." When Shirley MacLaine went to Mao's China -- one of the first to make a pilgrimage to the once forbidden land -- she found a sense of purpose that was missing for her in America. No one quarreled, she wrote, and "it slowly dawned on me that perhaps human beings could be taught anything."
But Glazov's last two sections, on Islamism and then new romance of today's far Left with terrorism, is by far the most important part of his book. Here, he addresses the seeming anomaly of how atheistic radicals have taken to support fundamentalist Islamic radicals. Building upon the work of Paul Berman, Laurent Murawiec and others, Glazov shows how "fascism and communism were centrally involved in the birth and development of Islamism." Indeed, he reveals that its roots lay in Marxist-Leninist philosophy, which had a great influence on radical Islam's founding fathers. Although the Leninists did not share Islamism's religious component, it did share with "the secular totalitarianisms the impulse to create an earthly paradise by washing the slate clean with human blood."
Glazov's chapter, "To Hate a Woman," is simply chilling. Even those who already know how Islamists treat women will be horrified about the details that Glazov has amassed. Demonstrating how Islamists believe theologically in women's inferiority, Glazov shows how violence against women takes place from the very moment of a female's birth. When it is time for marriage, he explains how allowing Muslim men to take many wives "minimizes the ability of a couple to nurture a deep emotional connection." And of course, the man can easily shatter the marital bond, thus keeping women living in a state of fear. I learned from his book, for example, that 90 per cent of Pakistani wives had been beaten or sexually abused for offenses like cooking a bad meal, and that television shows describe how best to beat a woman for different offenses. All this, he writes, is part of a culture "rife with feelings of humiliation, shame, impotence, emasculation and rage, combined with the rejection of earthly joy and pleasure." The result is glorification of a culture of death, that leads many to willingly choose death as their final service to Allah.
Finally, Glazov addresses the strange alliance between the far Left today and the forces of radical Islam and terror. As Michael Moore explained, opponents of the occupation of Iraq "are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen and their numbers will grow- and they will win." Noam Chomsky travelled to Lebanon in 2006 to cheer Hezbollah, telling its terror leader Nasrallah that George W. Bush was the world's real top "terrorist," and the U.S. one of the "leading terrorist states." One George Washington University philosophy professor explained that 9/11 was justified because the terrorists "sought to defeat...our arrogance, our gluttonous way of life, our miserliness toward the poor...the soulless pop culture...and a domineering attitude that insists on having our own way."
No one, of course, is more straightforward than the left-wing British MP George Galloway, who said that a Muslim-Leftist alliance "is vitally necessary...because the progressive movement around the world and the Muslims have the same enemies...the Zionist occupation, American occupation, British occupation of poor, mainly Muslim countries." So the Left, despite its roots in secular Marxism, sees Muslim radicalism , as Glazov writes, "as a valiant form of ‘resistance' against American imperialism and oppression." And further uniting them is the shared belief in the new anti-Semitism and hatred of the Jew, masking itself as simply anti-Zionism and opposition to Israel's "imperialist" policies.
Jamie Glazov's book is a major contribution to understanding the world we live in today, and the nature of the leftist opposition to those who see the need to confront the terrorists and defend democracy. It is an essential book for our time and as former CIA Director R. James Woolsey writes in his introduction, a "courageous and illuminating book." Buy it for your liberal friends, who more than anyone else, need to learn its lessons.
To order United in Hate, click here.
If you are a member of the media and would like to interview Jamie Glazov, e-mail publicist Sandy Frazier.
Ronald Radosh, Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, is an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute.