Saturday, 4 September 2010

Decency, propaganda and the left

A couple of quick recommendations:

In case you missed it, there's been a great discussion about the state of the Left, 'decent' and otherwise, going on over at Bob's place. Scroll down - there's some good stuff in the comments thread.

I'm probably late to the party on this one too, but if you haven't already done so, check out The Propagandist, a new-ish anti-totalitarian site which has some great contributors, including the excellent Terry Glavin and Eamonn McDonagh, whose names will be familiar to readers of this blog.

The Propagandist describes itself as a 'magazine...for political junkies, thinking conservatives and the anti-fascist left'. Some on the Left may be uncomfortable cosying up to conservatives, thinking or otherwise, but it made me think of a comment in the above-mentioned debate, which annoyingly I can't now find, about the big divide in contemporary politics being between those who wish to defend Western values and those who seek to undermine them.

I'm uncomfortable with talk of 'Western' values, just as I am with claims about standing up for 'Judaeo-Christian' ideas (on which more another time, perhaps). I think it plays into the hands of cultural relativists, and I'd prefer to talk about defending democracy, pluralism and freedom of thought and expression - which I believe are universal rather than specifically 'Western' values. But the commenter has a point. There is a serious threat to what might broadly be called liberal values from, on the one hand, the authoritarian pseudo-left (e.g. Chavez' Venezuela) and on the other hand the fundamentalist religious right (e.g. Ahmadinejad's Iran and its proxies in Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.).

A crucial division in our politics exists between those, on one side, who recognise this threat and think it's worth resisting, and on the other side those who don't think the threat is serious and/or aren't convinced that Enlightenment values are worth defending. At such a time, alliances sometimes cross traditional political boundaries, and left-wing anti-fascists will find common ground (for now) with liberal conservatives in the battle against totalitarian pseudo-leftism and clerical fascism.

Hence the link-up between 'thinking conservatives' and left-wing anti-fascists at The Propagandist. If you agree with them that the big issue of our time is the threat to liberty and progress from fundamentalist authoritarians, you'll probably like the site. If on the other hand, you believe that America, Israel and 'the West' are the cause of all the world's current woes, then you'd probably better give it a miss.


Terry Glavin said...

Thanks for this, Martin.

I do get a bit uncomfortable around The Propandist now and then, precisely over the question you raise - the ostensible distinction between "western" values and universal values. I know no one in "the west" fighting for democracy, free thought and equality the way our Afghan and Iranian friends fight. Among my comrades, none are more fervent in their devotion to the cause of toleration and human rights than those of them who happen to be Muslim.

You have a great weblodge here, by the way. I drop in frequently.


The Propagandist magazine said...

Much obliged for the link.

As noted, we've adopted a take-no-prisoners rhetorical onslaught in defense of liberty and progress in the modern era.

Bringing in contributors from both sides of the political divide does raise short-term challenges in terms of reaching an audience -- particularly online, where nuance is rarely rewarded and extremist views are easily propagated.

But long-term, this united approach is key to building a credible and popular movement. In some ways, our friends might describe us as the very first revolutionary centrists.

Thank you again for your kind words.

Confusion to our enemies.

Martin said...

Thanks, both, for the comments. Terry - thanks for the reminder that the real battles for democracy, freedom of expression, women's rights, etc are happening far from 'the west' and often without ostensible 'western' support. And I'm flattered to have you as a reader of my blog. Propagandist: like Terry, I don't always agree with what I read on your site, but I find what your 'take no prisoners' approach refreshing and bracing at a time of mealy-mouthed and half-hearted support for Enlightenment values among much of the political commentariat. And 'revolutionary centrism' sounds like something I could endorse!

bob said...

I completely agree with you Martin - writing as a Propagandist follower with the same reservations.

The West/anti-West thing you couldn't find, I think, was originally Marko at his blog.

My view is that the West may have given birth to some of these values, but it has upheld them very poorly, from the slave trade to the destruction of many of the Native cultures of the Americas to the violence of colonialism to the violence against Jews in the heart of the West.