OF THE LEFT
they took over the old conservative movement. Now theyre moving in on the left
THOSE DAMNED NEOCONS ARE EVERYWHERE!
By: Justin Raimondo
Certain people are touchstones your reaction
to them is a defining moment, a means of identifying who you are and what you believe. My
friend Pat Buchanan is one of those polarizing types (we have that in common), and the
reaction to his new magazine, The American
Conservative, is certainly defining something important about whats gong on
politically at this particular moment.
covered the reaction from the neoconservative Right, which was nothing less than fear and
loathing, as was to be expected. After all, those guys, ex-Trotskyists and cold war
liberals, are little more than right-wing social democrats, whose embrace of old-style
small-governement conservatism is highly conditional but whose genuine love of war
was the real factor that propelled them from Left to Right.
Yet one would think or
hope, from my perspective that the debut of TAC wouldve been greeted
by the Left with something more than jeers. For if David Corns piece
in The Nation is indicative of the leftist response to the rise of the anti-war
Paleo-Right, then David Brooks much-quoted remark that "were all neoconservatives now"
applies to The Nation as well as National Review and The Weekly Standard.
Based on an interview with Buchanan, the
article opens with a dumb-ass question oddly phrased: "Is Bill Kristol the
Antichrist?" An odd title for such a little man, but note, also, the provocative
juxtaposition of a Jewish name with the "Anti-Christ" imagery. "He knows
why hes being asked this," avers Corn, who then segues into his pat little
theme: that TAC is a "sectarian" magazine focused exclusively on the
subject of neo-conservatism and its
attendant evils. But apparently Pat knew exactly what Corn meant to imply, and
deflected the intended smear with a blunt declaration of war on neo-imperialism of the
"No, he is not the Antichrist. But
there is no doubt the neocons have come to define the conservative movement, which bothers
me. They do not represent traditional conservatism. Commentary, National Review
and The Weekly Standard are nearly interchangeable in terms of foreign policy and
empire. It's all degenerating into outright imperialism. This is not conservatism. The
idea of our magazine is to recapture the flag of the conservative movement."
Expel the warmongers! Retire Norman Podhoretz,
George Will, and the rest of the empire-building, big-spending, chicken-hawish policy
wonks, publicists, and laptop-bombardiering pundits now howling for the slaughter to
begin. Can it be that Corn doesnt think this is a great idea?
Imagine a world in which no one listens to
Bill Bennett, and James Taranto,
instead of being a web-columnist for the worlds
leading financial newspaper, is instead the proprietor and sole writer for
hate-arabs.com, a website devoted to proving the racial inferiority and inherent venality
of all things Arabic. Imagine a world without Max Boot, and his complaints of too
few American casualties in Afghanistan surely that would be a better world, much
better by any standard. The Nation ought to get down on its hands and knees and cry
out "glory, glory hallelujah!" at the sight of the Old Right rising out of the
mists, coming over the hill to reinforce the antiwar forces at this crucial moment.
Instead of welcoming new allies on the war
question with joyful cries of "here comes the cavalry!", however, Corn clearly
disdains TAC, for many of the same reasons as the neocons. Indeed, he even cites
one of them, Ronald Radosh, and his facile remark that one "might have been excused
for wondering if they had accidentally picked up The Nation." But of course The
Nation has yet to run anything against the war on Iraq with the intellectual heft of Paul W. Schroeders 10,000-word piece
on the foreign policy implications of "preemption" or half the outraged passion
of Eric Margolis.
When it comes to my contribution to TACs
inaugural issue, Corn also takes the
same neoconnish tack as Radosh, describing me as "editorial director of
Antiwar.com and a gay conservative activist." Is it asking too much of the editors of
The Nation to understand why being identified by ones sexual activities is,
in the year 2002, utterly irrelevant? I could understand the appellation if, instead of
writing this column, and two books dealing
with the history of political ideas,
I had authored a trilogy of novels detailing the career of a beautiful-but-doomed
twenty-something hunk, who winds up getting AIDS and marrying a doctor. But that is not at
all the case. Ive written about David Corn on a few occasions, and have yet to
identify him as "that heterosexual pinko hack" or some-such sexually-charged
label. I guess we are supposed to be thrilled, shocked, even, at the juxtaposition
of a Buchanan-run magazine with a writer who may not fit the stereotype of the rightist as
a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal out of Theodore
Adornos worst nightmare. But of course stereotypes are what this whole
Left-Right nonsense is all about.
Corn emphasizes the differences between the
paleo-conservatives and the left, stating, for one, that Buchanan (and his magazine) agree
with the neocons on the alleged need for increased military spending. I dont know
Pats position on the military budget. I do know that if the program outlined in his
Republic, Not an Empire, were implemented if we withdrew from Europe, from
Asia, forsook the temptations of Empire, and concentrated on defending American soil
a huge cut in the military budget would be not only possible but also inevitable.
The aim of the pro-war crowd including
the left-interventionists, who want the UN, and not George W. Bush, to conquer the world
is to split the antiwar movement in as many different ways as possible. Left must
be turned against right; and liberals against Old Left Marxists, all in the service of
what? Or, rather, of whom?
antiwar marchers descended on Washington the other day, and different sectors of our
bi-partisan War Party reacted with various degrees of venom. Way out in right field, David
Horowitz howled "100,000 Communists
March on Washington!" Quack
quack! On the ostensible "left," we have Todd Gitlin
and Mr. Corn complaining not only about the far-left politics emanating from the speakers
platform that day, but also about the principled non-interventionist stand taken by the
International Action Center/A.N.S.W.E.R.
group. In a piece for the L.A. Weekly, with the sinister title of "Behind the Placards," Corn
details the politically incorrect crimes of IAC spokesman Ramsey Clark. Now I have detailed
length, but its interesting how Corn picked out different ones. A major crime,
in Corns book aside from Clarks attachment to the
most relentlessly boring of all the Marxist-Leninist sects is Clarks
insufficient enthusiasm for the authority and majesty of the UNs Balkan Tribunal and
the farcical trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Corn recites the long history Clarks
ultra-leftism, but saves what he thinks of as the worst for last:
"There is no reason to send weapons
inspectors to Iraq, he told CNNs Wolf Blitzer: After 12 years of brutalization
with sanctions and bombing theyd like to be a country again. Theyd like to
have sovereignty again. Theyd like to be left alone."
Oh, that horrible Commie! How dare he
introduce such a radical, obviously Marxist-Leninist concept into the debate over the
war?! Leave them alone? Surely you jest.
Corn makes much of the rather obscure fact
that the Workers World Party,
which controls the International Action Center, defends North Korea against
what they call "capitalist encroachment." Corn labels them "the
we-love-North-Korea" set. But the Workers Worlders dont push their creed of
"global class struggle"
as developed by Sam Marcy at their events. Not a word about the "wisdom" of
Koreas "Great Leader" was heard from the platform on October 26. I would
no more challenge the reverence for Lenin exhibited by the Marxists in the antiwar
movement than I would challenge the conception of the Virgin birth or the miracles of the
saints to a Catholic. After all, why begrudge someone their religion? Unless, of course,
they want to push it on me....
Corn claims that the churches and the labor
unions, which he claims to want to recruit into the antiwar movement, wont go near
it as presently constituted, but then the unions were never all that antiwar to begin with
not that the lefties Corn disdains havent tried to approach labor. Indeed, at
antiwar meetings dominated by the left, on campus and out in the community, that is all we
hear from the Commies how we have to do "labor outreach." So Corn
and the Commies are on the same wavelength.
As for the alleged inability of the IAC to
recruit the churches to the antiwar cause: I once attended a rally against the Kosovo war,
sponsored by the IAC, addressed by a Serbian Orthodox bishop.
I agree with some of Corns specific
criticisms of the WWP/IAC, but one has to wonder: if both Ramsey Clark and Pat
Buchanan arent good enough for the antiwar movement, then who is? Katrina
vanden Heuvel? Perhaps The Nation would care to sponsor an antiwar march, and
then Corn & Co. could come up with a list of acceptable speakers.
I suggest Christopher Hitchens. Their longtime
columnist recently quit
when he decided that America had "bombed Afghanistan out of the Stone Age."
Hitchens now looks to Uncle Sam to "liberate" his beloved Kurds. He disdained
vanden Heuvels entreaties to stay on, but might relish the opportunity to lecture
his former comrades on the "progressive" impact American bombs would have on
Corn avers that TAC "echoes the
left" in its arguments against the war, but he doesnt know the history of the
antiwar movement in this country: the biggest in our history was organized by anti-FDR
conservatives, not lefties. It was called the America First movement, and, at its
height, it mobilized millions. Corn writes:
"TAC considers the defining
issue of the day to be the supposedly titanic conflict between isolationist conservatives
(who put aside their reservations during the cold war to fight the Commies) and messianic,
let's-remake-the-world-and-help-Israel neocons. It's a self-consciously sectarian magazine
spoiling for a fight. The question is, Who, if anyone, is going to show up for Buchanan's
But if the ostensibly antiwar liberals of the
Corn-Gitlin "moderate" mold are going to campaign for intrusive inspections and
against the idea of a sovereignty that wont permit either American or
"international" intervention, then that leaves only the conservative
"isolationists" and the Ramsey Clarks of this world standing alone against the
War Party. In that case, who is going to show up for the big battle is not only the
Buchanan Brigades, and many conservatives in general, but also all those disappointed
readers of The Nation who are sick and tired of being fed a diet of Hitchens and
Corn, and hunger for some real red-meat antiwar philippics.
The neoconization of the American left, like
that of the right, promises to be a grisly sight, and ought to be resisted. But not if my
good friend and fellow paleo Paul Gottfried can help
it. In an article posted on LewRockwell.com, our sister site, Gottfried advises us to
"Forget the Left,
Neocon or Otherwise." He sees Corns piece as "sending the
paleos an unmistakable warning." Stay out!
"The Left, which is a multicultural
big-government force, is not looking for allies on our side of the aisle. It is happy with
the current arrangements, in which Bill Bennett and Dinesh DSouza get to speak for
the Right while most of the political class continues to speak for the
leftwing social democrats. Although there may be occasional intramural bickering, e.g.,
among the various Middle East factions or about how far to push the feminist agenda or
socialized medicine, leftists are content to disagree among themselves while
consigning our guys to the outer reaches of Hell."
This is an admirably concise analysis of the
way in which the social democratic left gets to "debate" the social democratic
"right," and together they cook up a "consensus" between them,
otherwise known as the Welfare-Warfare
State. But how should libertarians and paleoconservatives respond to such a maneuver,
which is clearly meant to isolate us and consign us to the margins? According to
Gottfried, we should
But the issue of the war, and how to lead a
principled and effective opposition to it, presents the anti-imperialist Right with the
opportunity to break through the logjam of American politics. The only thing that can save
us from an Orwellian future of perpetual war and the rapid erosion of our civil liberties
is an ideological realignment. Wars tend to re-arrange traditional concepts of what
constitutes "left" and "right," and the same is happening this time
around: in America, these are not immutable categories, as in Europe, but fluid concepts
that tend to be reshaped in wartime.
Prior to World War II, the Right was
anti-imperialist in principle and vehemently anti-war in practice: it was the Left that
called for the opening of a "second front" to save the Soviet Union, and the
right-wing America Firsters who said we ought to let the two dictators destroy each other.
With the coming of the cold war, the antiwar
movement switched ideological polarities, with the left generally opposing intervention
abroad and the right opting for a policy of "rollback" against the Soviet Union.
When the Kremlin was finally humbled
not by American force of arms, as the Buckleyites dreamed, but by the immutable laws of
nature and economics conservatives of Buchanans ilk decided it was time for
America to come home. The spirit of America First was remembered, and revived. Post-9/11,
the America Firsters have stuck by their guns, challenging the War Party on every front,
from the logic of preemption to the terrible hubris that motivates such a recklessly
Jacobin foreign policy. And what leftie wont be delighted by the wonderful cover of
the current issue of The American Conservative, which consists of a giant campaign
button in red-white-and-blue that reads:
"MAKE WAR / VOTE GOP"
This illustrates an article, "Militarism and the Midterm
Elections," that readers of The Nation could only dream about, and never
get: a clear-eyed view of the politics of this war that is neither a partisan Democratic
attack nor a weepy bout of liberal moralizing:
"The megalomaniacal obsession with
cleaning the face of the Middle East and its 280 million Arabs, whether they want it or
not, has intoxicated the DODs masters beyond reason. Vice President Dick Cheney and
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice have swallowed it neat and uncut too. But that
does not mean Bush and Karl Rove do not have other more practical
considerations high on their agenda.
"For the taunt that Republican critics
threw correctly at President Bill Clinton is also true of this Republican
president who seems inclined to subordinate foreign policy principles to his domestic
Is it "right"? Is it
"left"? And who cares? These categories never had much meaning to begin with,
and they have even less today, as all ideologies and parties are put to the test by the
prospect of a new world war.
Gottfried, in his piece, makes reference to Murray N. Rothbard and his followers,
who entered into an alliance with elements of the New Left during the Vietnam war era.
"Nothing much came of this enterprise," Gottfried avers, "except for a few
scholarly ventures most notably with the
pre-neocon Ronald Radosh, and as far as I know, this alliance-building was
subsequently abandoned by the Right, where it had been taken more seriously than by the
Nothing much came of this unless you count the
transformation of the libertarian movement itself from a subsidiary branch of
conservatism to an independent movement in its own right. As a result of the break with
the Right and the alliance with the antiwar Left, libertarians were themselves
transformed, and began to look at the State in a different, more consistent way. They began to
understand not only that Big Business is a major instrument and beneficiary of the
welfare state and they clearly saw the centrality of war to the growth and
consolidation of state power. Rothbards venture into the antiwar movement of the
1960s, which was dominated by the Left, marked the advent of an organized libertarian
movement on a national scale: this was the period of its most rapid growth, not only
numerically but in terms of public visibility.
"Despite such setbacks, some rightists
continue to hope that the Left will stop slamming the door in their faces. If only lefties
and misnamed liberals would join hands with us, we would be able to move forward and push
the neocons out of their position in the right-center of a leftward moving spectrum."
No one is suggesting a "covergence"
of the America First right and the American left into a single political party. But on the
single issue of the war it is not only possible but vitally necessary to unite all who can
be united around opposition to the unfolding disaster. It is literally a matter of life
and death. The moral gravity of such a task makes such considerations as the future of the
neocons, and the career possibilities of "sucking up to powerful leftist
literati," utterly beside the point.
With Corn it is the Leninists of the WWP, with
Gottfried it is the eminently suck-up-able and all-powerful "leftist literati"
so powerful, indeed, that we neednt mention their names. The lyrics sung by
these two song-birds are quite different, but the tune sounds exactly the same: a
broadly-based, all-American, non-partisan anti-stereoptypical peace movement is an
impossible dream, and wed be better off not even thinking about it. The War Party
would no doubt agree.
Its what the neocons fear most of all: a
union of left and right anti-interventionists that would isolate the pro-war
"mainstream" liberals and their neocon second-cousins, hemming them in on both
sides, and eventually winning over the majority of naturally "isolationist"
Americans. Ignore the naysayers, on the left and the right, who say it cant or
shouldnt be done. It has to be done so lets get to it.
With the defection of Hitchens, the
ambivalence of Corn, and the growing chorus of Gephardt-Lieberman Democrats who support
the new imperialism, the neoconization of the Left is taking place before our eyes. No
wonder groups like the Workers World Party and the other Marxist sects are finding a
renewed demand for their shopworn but radical-sounding phrase-mongering. At least they
present a consistent position.
It is young people who will have to fight this
war, and who will probably be drafted after our great "victory," to police what
the military professionals have conquered, and it is they who are protesting this war in
growing numbers. On campuses all across America, and internationally, a movement is rising
that has the potential to stop this war before it starts. Thats what all the fuss is
about: the War Party is deathly afraid of this new development, and they are pulling out
all the stops to smear it, divide it, divert it.
The question of the leadership of the antiwar
movement is not going to be decided by pundits, but by the course of events: if and when
it grows large enough to have a significant impact, the movement against this war will
have already grown far beyond the leftist nut-balls that briefly assisted at its birth. It
will begin to take on a whole new character, one that naturally reflects its deep American
roots. That day, I pray, is not far.
Justin Raimondo is Editorial Director
He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.
Justin Raimondo may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the November 8, 2002 issue of Ether Zone
Copyright © 1997 - 2002 Ether Zone.
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