If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject. – Ayn Rand
The political philosophy of the New Left is weak, shallow, and in its expression by some of its gurus, patently absurd. But it has won the West. It has won the academies of the pan-European word, and through them generations grow up steeped in the creed.
What is the creed, and why has it won?
It has won because it echoes a Christian teaching, to which some 8,000 generations (reckoning 4 generations per century) of Europeans have been subjected.
It is the notion that to be a good person you must pity other people and make sacrifices for them. Only if you do that, are you worthy and virtuous.
It has been drummed into every Christian from his earliest years, so even if he rebels against his religion, his class, his culture, his race, his nation, he clings to that idea as to the moral kingpin of his universe. Take it away, and the center will not hold.
The New Left was a rebellion by affluent, middle-class adolescents (some of them well advanced in middle age) against their class, culture, race, and nation, starting about twenty years after the end of the Second World War (1939-1945).
The old Left, a secular version of Christianity, won the support of middle-class intellectuals by directing pity on to the working-class. The intellectuals would, at whatever cost to themselves, lead the oppressed and exploited workers in revolution. In Russia to start with, they did just that before the end of the First World War.
By the late 1960s, the old Left, in the person of dictators and their henchmen, was actively oppressing millions, including the populations of the Eastern European countries and a part of Germany.
So the old Left lost its appeal partly because the Leftist regimes could not easily be held up as models of paradise on earth. In addition, the working-class in the West had generally become prosperous enough to be content with its lot.
The New Left found new victims to feel sorry for. It found them first abroad, in the Third World, which was not prosperous. It declared the people of Third World countries to be exploited and oppressed by European colonialism and imperialism, even if their countries were no longer colonies or parts of empires. Its concern extended to Third World descendants who lived in the First World.
Then it declared that in the First World, women were victims of male-dominated societies. Many women volunteered for the role.
Next, homosexuals were declared, and many declared themselves, victims of heterosexual-dominated First World societies.
The main thing was, New Left intellectuals found new groups to pity, and so new sources for pride in a feeling of self-worth.
After 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War – of which the West was the immediate winner – the old Left was held by Western intellectuals (whom Thomas Sowell calls “the self-annointed”) to have been the wrong Left. The New Left, they maintain, is the politically correct Left.
The strange thing about the (new or old) Left’s remedy for human suffering is this: While only the individual can feel pain and suffer distress; while no masses, no group, no class, no race as such can suffer or feel anything at all; yet the Plan of the Left to remedy suffering is always one that sacrifices individuals for the sake of the group. It is always a Plan that is implemented regardless of individual suffering. So important is the Plan itself, that any number of individuals may be persecuted, silenced, tortured, enslaved, killed for it.
There is no collective remedy for human suffering. The only prescription that works is individual freedom; leaving people alone to serve their own purposes in the manner they choose for themselves. (Nothing need prevent an individual from aiding other individuals if that’s what he wants to do.)
John Schindler, who calls himself “a traditional leftist”, writes about why he believes the New Left has won in an article titled Who Really Won the Cold War?, in The Federalist. I quote it in full.
While he makes some points I do not agree with (chiefly the idea he takes for granted that Leftism ideally serves the cause of “human freedom”), he makes many more that bear out what I have said about the old Left and the New Left, and how and why the New Left has won the Cold War. I found this surprising. But it explains why an essay by a “traditional leftist” appears in The Federalist.
He starts with a figure from the old Left who has just recently risen to prominence:
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has sent shockwaves far beyond Britain. There has been disbelief that the United Kingdom’s storied left-wing party opted to be led by a man so obviously contemptuous of his own society. In the wake of their recent electoral debacle under the uninspiring Ed Miliband, Labour has chosen as its leader an activist who resembles a walking leftist cliché. Corbyn’s radicalism is not in doubt. Aside from his embrace of socialist-throwback platitudes that linger on his party’s left flank on the full range of domestic issues, in adamant rejection of Blairism, Corbyn’s foreign-policy views merit attention. Openly hostile to NATO and Britain’s longstanding “special relationship” with the United States, Corbyn adds overt sympathy for numerous authoritarian regimes.
He blames the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, not the Kremlin, for the Ukraine crisis and has endorsed Russia Today, Putin’s TV propaganda network. Corbyn opposes essentially all overseas military operations by Britain and wants to parley with Bashar al-Assad, four years into Syria’s fratricide, while viewing Tehran as a partner for Middle East peace.
That said, leftist infatuation with foreign dictators is hardly new. For decades a crush on “progressive” despots safely far away from their own free country has been a staple of the Western far-Left diet. Corbyn is simply a paid-up member of his ideological tribe.
Yet Corbyn surpasses his predecessors in his fervent embrace of the social-justice message at home as well as abroad. He exudes hostility towards the Britain that made the historic Labour Party. This, after all, is a man who celebrates Hamas, Hezbollah, and related Islamist extremists as freedom-fighters, while explaining the death of Osama bin Laden was “a tragedy”.
Unsurprisingly, Corbyn enthusiastically espouses multiculturalism and says Britain should “celebrate” record numbers of immigrants entering the country — a position not popular with many voters, who see the European Union being overwhelmed by waves of migrants from Asia and Africa. Between his crush on the West’s enemies and his desire to change his country’s population, Corbyn wants to abolish Britain, not reform it.
Yet we should not regard Corbyn as a particular outlier. In truth, his cocktail of trendy “progressive” opinions, which rejects virtually everything about their own society, is commonly found among postmodern Western leftists. The only difference is that Corbyn makes no effort to mask his views. Many of his fellow travelers obscure their take, which would be considered extreme by most voters, behind moderate-sounding language.
Unlike Barack Obama, who once assured us that he did not see a Red America or a Blue America, rather a United States of America — then proceeded to govern through two terms as a highly partisan liberal Democrat — Corbyn states openly that there is only one “real” Britain, and it is deep red (which in Britain, as most of Europe, means left-wing).
Corbynism is no sudden or shocking development, but the natural culmination of 50 years of left-wing views that have shifted from a desire to reform Western democracies to an unconcealed wish to kill them, or at least change them so fundamentally that they bear little resemblance to themselves.
The Old Left, for all its sometimes horrific flaws, sought socioeconomic change to benefit average citizens, not all-out social revolution. They, in their own way, were very much a product of Western culture. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, which split the Left worldwide into communist and social democratic groupings, the latter worked within the socioeconomic system, embracing democracy while seeking minimal deep changes to society itself.
Even the communists were hardly social revolutionaries in practice. In the initial euphoria of the revolution there was experimentation. The Soviet Union became the first society ever to allow abortion and easy divorce. In Hungary, during the short-lived red revolution at the end of World War I, Bolsheviks embraced social radicalism and introduced sex education to undermine the traditional family.
However, once firmly in power, the Soviets dropped any pretense of social revolution to mirror the politico-economic one. While religion was persecuted and mild feminism got lip service, Stalin banned abortion and the party frowned upon sexual immorality. After all, the revolution needed soldiers and workers, and who but communist women could make those?
Although the abortion ban was dropped after Stalin, Soviet social practices remained highly “heteronormative,” with homosexuality being criminal while men and women were strongly encouraged to marry and be fruitful. In its most extreme form, Nicolae Ceaușescu nearly banned abortion and contraceptives altogether in his effort to build his highly fecund socialist Romania.
Many were the Western progressives who visited the East Bloc during the Cold War, having been fed propaganda about the wondrous “new society”, only to discover that communism was actually behind the West in matters of family, sex, and gender.
While the Soviets and their clients remained mired in traditional social models, the West moved on — or forward, depending on your viewpoint. The great social revolution of the 1960s, which passed the East Bloc by because communism had insulated the countries, brought forth a New Left in the West that was interested in matters of sex, gender, and race rather than who owns the means of production.
Their “long march through the institutions” after a half-century must be judged wholly successful. While the Right has won the battle for economics across the West — calls for public ownership now seem quaint rather than threatening to capitalists — the New Left has triumphed on the social front in every arena.
In the United States, which was more resistant to the New Left agenda than many Western countries, the Obama years have witnessed the victory of social justice on all major matters of race, gender, and sexuality. Thanks to activists, politicians, and courts, Americans today are living in a very different social and sexual world than their parents and grandparents.
More than a few communists saw all this coming. Beginning in the 1970s, East Bloc secret police began to notice the impact of the New Left on their Old Left countries. Cries for radical individualism from dissidents under Western influence troubled the communists, who didn’t know what to do about this trend, which they dismissed as a bourgeois affectation.
By the 1980s, the more perceptive East Bloc security services were denouncing this Western poison, which took the form of radical feminism, sexual freedom, environmental activism, and gay rights. To traditional communists, who barely understood this new ideology, it was a scary Western import, according to the secret police. Some in Eastern Europe termed this decadence “anarcho-liberalism”, and they considered it a disease of an affluent late capitalist society burdened with excessive consumerism and leisure time.
In the end, of course, the communists lost. Lots of average people in the East Bloc wanted the freedom to own cool shoes, while some pined for the social-sexual liberties that the West offered. In many ways, the revolutions of 1989 to 1991 that changed the map and politics of Europe and beyond can be viewed with a quarter-century of hindsight as the defeat of the Old Left in the East by the New Left in the West.
We are living still with the consequences of this seismic political shift. With the sudden disappearance of the communist threat, the Right lost interest in socioeconomic fairness, a Cold War necessity to keep reds at bay on the home-front, while oddly so did the Left.
The obsessive interest of the New Left in social justice has come at the expense of economic concerns, with the result that on a wide range of topics their positions, barring lip service, differ hardly at all from the Right. Few on the Left question our basic economic arrangements; tearing down our social foundations has been their core program.
Barack Obama is the most left-wing president ever on social justice, yet he is a darling of Wall Street. Hillary Clinton, despite her belated interest in social issues, is deeply enmeshed in high finance and will never challenge it. Thus Bernie Sanders, who is an amalgam of Old and New Left, is treated like an atavism by mainstream liberals when he opens the economics can of worms.
It’s all enough to make the few traditional leftists among us want to pull their hair out. The broad alliance of cultural Left and corporate Right, which questions none of our economics, has triumphed in our politics — or at least had until Donald Trump came along to question “settled” issues such as mass, often illegal, immigration. The cultural Left favors this because it gradually dissolves the traditional culture, which they despise, while the corporate Right favors it for the cheap labor. Postmodern capitalism is at least as revolutionary a force as anything cooked up by any Marxist, as well as something any Social Justice Warrior can live with.
For more than a generation we have sorely lacked mainstream contributions from social democrats who seek to make our society better, not destroy it. There ought to be no illusions about what the cultural Left seeks: a full revolution of our society and its history, which they see as benighted by irredeemable racism, sexism, and Old Think. Their opponents are objectively evil and on the“wrong side of history,” as Obama himself has assured us, and they must disappear. “Error has no rights,” the mid-nineteenth-century Vatican formulation, has oddly been adapted by our postmodern Left.
As communists once predicted the state itself would wither away, resulting in complete human freedom and progress, the New Left expects that all traditional societal arrangements will wither away, thereby allowing full human freedom and progress. One offered discipline and order and sometimes gulags; the other offers sexual liberty, anti-racism, and iPhones.
Both these beliefs are illusions, and dangerous ones, rooted in a Marxist sense of “knowing” where history is going. The working class was once revered by leftists as uniquely virtuous, while for the New Left that vanguard role is played by minorities sexual and racial, who are allegedly untainted by the dominant group. The essential willingness to ignore inconvenient truths remains the same.
Let us give the Old Left, particularly its social democratic guise, credit that they did not seek the extirpation of our whole society and culture, but instead its transformation. What the New Left today fights for is far more revolutionary and utopian. A Europe that seeks a future where actual Europeans are a dying remnant, replaced by more vigorous immigrants, is but one manifestation of this worldview.
Leftists once heartily sang the “Internationale,” which promised “This is the final struggle” (C’est la lutte finale). Communists were quite wrong about that. History has moved on and left them behind everywhere but Cuba, North Korea, and Western universities. Yet their social-justice descendants believe the same thing, with a different favored fantasy class.
They will be proved wrong, too. The Corbyn vision has no future to offer most Britons. It would be incomprehensible to generations of Labour patriots who fought for Britain, her values, and her allies. The only question is how much damage to what is left of the West will be inflicted before the New Left is vanquished, too.
I wish I could share his optimism that the New Left will be vanquished (in the foreseeable future).
And what I miss in the essay is any reference to the human misery that “traditional leftism” of the redder kind has caused wherever it has had power to cause it. Of course, his focus is on the British Left, which was never – until now? – as red as all that.
I dislike his implication that collectivism (aka Leftism) of his favored – or any – kind is a valid recipe for improving what Leftists have called “the human condition”.
But I applaud his recognition that the New Left “seeks the extirpation of our whole society and culture”, and that he deplores that terrible aim.
If only he could also see that it is logically, even necessarily, derived from the old socialist collectivist thinking to which he remains faithful!
Jillian Becker September 18, 2015
What was Hillary Clinton’s greatest achievement as Secretary of State? The transformation of Libya from a pacific dictatorship into a chaos. Now its ports are population spouts, pouring the multitudes of Africa into the Mediterranean towards Europe. The highly probable result is the destruction of Europe.
The American administration was helped by the European powers themselves; positively urged on by France and Britain.
In this video published June 2015, Jared Taylor describes the horror of this huge historical development:
The numbers of migrants, and of the drowned, have increased in the three months since the video was made.
There is no sign that the human flood will abate. It breaks again and again on Europe’s shores, and is overwhelming the continent.
The Europeans are taking no measures to stop it. They want to rescue more of the foreigners from the sea, and give them – free, at their own expense – shelter, safety, every means of life support.
The Africans who get to Europe take what is given them, and then – many of them – do their best to turn Europe into the same sort of Islamic hell as they escaped from.
That is why Jared Taylor aptly calls this chapter of European history it’s “suicide”.
It would be a most desirable thing, a sweet dream for all mankind, if the evil Left were to perish.
Its years of power in the West may be over. The “long march through the institutions” brought it to the peak of power – the presidency of the USA. And there it has failed. Of course.
There are signs of its demise in America, what with corrupt old Hillary’s pathetic dance, and voters waking up to Obama’s treachery, and someone (Trump) daring to defy political correctness at last.
And in Britain, the dream may be about to become true.
Steven Hayward writes at PowerLine:
More fun than watching the Hillary meltdown and the Democratic Party rage against the results of the Obama regime is to cast your gaze over to Britain, where the Labour Party seems to have forgotten the lesson of their 1983 election platform (which included a call for unilateral nuclear disarmament) which UK political junkies referred to as “the longest suicide note in history.”
Labour was crushed in that election, and having not been chastened by the recent election rout at the hands of the Conservatives and the Scottish nationalist party seems to be hankering for a repeat of 1983. By all accounts, the Labour Party is set to choose as its next leader Jeremy Corbyn, a deep-left radical who is generally regarded as completely unelectable [by Tony Blair] if he indeed heads the Labour Party into the next election.
I can’t do better than Boris Johnson, the colorful Tory mayor of London, who posted the following on his Facebook page a few days ago. Since it’s on Facebook and there’s no general link, I’ll just report the entire piece here:
It begins with a look of slow and wondering amazement – as if he hardly dares believe his luck; and then the certainty builds, millisecond by millisecond. Then the eyebrows go up even higher, and the mouth gapes and the eyes pop and the epiglottis vibrates as he lets out a long, whooping yell of sheer incredulous ecstasy.
That is how police chief Brody reacts in the last reel of Jaws when, by some fluke, he manages to shoot a bullet right into the oxygen tank in the mouth of the shark, and the ravening fish improbably explodes. That is frankly how we in the Tory party feel as we watch what is happening in the Labour movement today.
If these polls are right (and that is a pretty big if these days) then we are at that preliminary stage in Roy Scheider’s masterful portrait of the joyful police chief. We aren’t yet whooping, but our eyebrows are twitching north in incredulity. We are filled with disbelief that this can really be taking place, a distrust of the evidence of our senses.
If all these forecasts are right – the polls, the betting markets, the pundits – then that fearsome New Labour machine is in the process of some kind of violent, unexpected and hilarious disintegration. It really looks as though it might be the end for the ruthless beast that won three election victories and struck terror for so long into Tory hearts. Can it be true? Can this be happening? Are they really proposing that Her Majesty’s Opposition should be led by Jeremy Corbyn?
It is not just that he has next to zero support among mainstream Labour MPs in the Commons; it doesn’t matter that he has rebelled against the party leadership ever since he has been in the House. Indeed, it doesn’t matter that he sometimes identifies the right problems – low pay, underinvestment in infrastructure, or whatever. It is his solutions that are so out of whack with reality.
This is a man whose policies are way, way to the Left even of the last Labour leader –[Ed] Miliband – a man who in the end was resoundingly rejected by the electorate for being too Left-wing. … He would take this country back to the 1970s, or perhaps even the 1790s. He believes in higher taxes and a bigger deficit, and kowtowing to the unions, and abandoning all attempts to introduce competition or academic rigour in schools – let alone reforming welfare.
He is a Sinn Fein-loving, monarchy-baiting, Israel-bashing believer in unilateral nuclear disarmament. … Never in all his wildest dreams did he imagine that he might be leader of what has been – until this year – one of the major parties of government; and now he is having greatness thrust upon him. …
The armies of Labour rank and file … honestly seem to think that this might be the way forward. Yes, there really are a few hundred thousand people who seriously think that we should turn back the clock, take huge swathes of industry back into public ownership and massively expand the state.
The problem for Labour is that they do not represent the majority of people in this country. That is the real lesson of this campaign so far: that the mass of the Labour Party is totally out of touch with reality and common sense. How should we Tories react? … We watch with befuddlement and bewilderment that is turning all the time into a sense of exhilarating vindication: I told you they were loony.
And Alex Massie writes at The Spectator (UK):
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Willie Horton and Michael Dukakis. That’s what Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to prominence will do to a fellow. Horton, you will remember, was the convicted murderer who never returned from a weekend furlough granted to him while Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts, and subsequently kidnapped a couple in Maryland, stabbing the husband and repeatedly raping the wife.
He became the star of George Bush’s 1988 presidential election campaign. Lee Atwater, Bush’s most pugnacious strategist, had vowed to “strip the bark” from Dukakis and promised that “by the time we’re finished they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’ running-mate”. The Willie Horton ads were ugly … but, by god, they were effective. They gave Bush a message: he wasn’t the other guy. The guy from the most liberal corner of the most liberal state in the Union, the guy who opposed the death penalty, who disapproved of … the Pledge of Allegiance, the guy who let a first-degree murderer out of jail, not once, but ten times. The same murderer, Willie Horton, who invaded a suburban home and raped a woman. The Willie Horton who said “Obviously, I am for Dukakis” (it didn’t matter that he didn’t vote just as the other nuances of the issue didn’t matter at all).
By the end of it all it was a bloody business. In the second presidential debate Dukakis was asked if he’d still oppose the death penalty for someone who raped and killed his own wife. He said he would. Game over. Dukakis never understood what hit him.
Of course it was ugly and of course it was merciless and sometimes it was unfair too. But that didn’t matter.
All his bark was stripped.
So the question is, How many Willie Hortons does Jeremy Corbyn have?
An astonishing number. Not just ISIS, not just his support for an inquiry into supposed Jewish influence on government decisions, not just the platforms he’s shared with a remarkable number of unsavoury types. Not just his suggestion Hamas is not a terrorist organisation. Not just his willingness to blame Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine on NATO. Not just his instinctive support for anyone opposed to anything proposed by either the United States or the United Kingdom. Not even just his suggestion, in 2013, that Argentina be permitted a say in the governance of the Falkland Islands. Not just these things, but all or any of them.
Most of these, frankly, should disqualify him from serious office.
And so too should his record on Northern Ireland. A vast amount of guff is now being peddled by Corbyn’s supporters on this. If we are to believe them, Corby’s willingness to talk to Sinn Fein and the IRA in the 1980s just showed how he was ahead of the game. After all, the British government eventually did so too, didn’t it?
This misses the vital point. Corbyn might have wanted ‘peace’ but he wanted it on the IRA’s terms. He wanted Sinn Fein and the IRA to win.
People genuinely interested in peace – and cross-community dialogue – back then didn’t speak at Troops Out rallies. They didn’t invite convicted IRA bombers to the House of Commons two weeks after the IRA attempted to assassinate the Prime Minister and the rest of her cabinet in Brighton. (A bomb, remember, that killed five people.) …
Even now he cannot actually bring himself to condemn IRA atrocities, weaselling out of suggestions he do so by condemning all atrocities. But normal people know that condemning IRA murders does not mean condoning Loyalist murders or, for that matter, the excesses of the RUC and British Army. Corbyn, however, still prefers to sing from the [Irish] Republican song-sheet. …
Far from being ahead of the game, Corbyn was, at best, deluded, and at worst, marginally complicit in the murderous actions of a terrorist organisation that targeted his fellow citizens.
That none of this seems to trouble his supporters says all you need to know about the mess Labour finds itself in.
If – and perhaps this is unlikely – Corbyn makes it to 2020 even the most ludicrous, improbable, Tory could beat him. Running an anti-Corbyn campaign would be the greatest turkey shoot in the history of modern British politics.
The only difficulty would be deciding which of Corbyn’s Willie Hortons it would be most effective to focus upon. Bark-stripping will never be easier.
Choosing Corbyn is worse than a blunder, it’s a crime.
Not if his leadership means the end of the British Labour Party.
We hope Corbyn is easily beatable in a general election. We hope the campaign against him will be managed as effectively as Bush’s campaign against Dukakis was managed.
We hope the British Laboour Party is a spent force. Forever.
And we hope that will be the beginning of the end of the evil Left as a force in national politics in the West.
But we are skeptical and rather pessimistic through experience, and will not be surprised if we are disappointed.
There has been a heated exchange of views in our comments sections on some of our recent posts dealing with Nazis, Communists, and other socialists, particularly on yesterday’s post, Tomorrow belongs to them, and the extract from Jillian Becker’s essay The Fun Revolutionaries, July 26, 2015 (posted in full under the title The Darkness of This World [Part Two], to be found under PAGES at the top of our margin). Today we post an article by Jillian Becker on the same subjects, with an explanation of how it came to be written.
A new production of Hamlet is being put on at the Barbican Theatre in London, starring the impressive actor, Benedict Cumberbatch. The director, Lyndsey Turner, sees generation rebellion as an important aspect of the story, and observes that the events of the play take place some 30 years after a war between Denmark and Norway (a war which Denmark won). The assistant-director, Sam Caird, wrote to me on June 8, on behalf of the director, asking me (as the author of Hitler’s Children) to come and speak to the company about generational rebellion in West Germany in the late 1960s, when the New Left movement protested against the parent generation of the Third Reich (which of course lost the Second World War). I felt honored by the invitation, but explained that I could not travel from America to speak to the company, much as I’d have liked to. Instead I promised them a paper on the subject. Here it is:
Generational Rebellion and its Effects in West Germany, 1967-1977
Most of the declared causes of the 1967-1968 student protest movement in West Germany were ideological. The protestors were for pacifism, and against authoritarianism, capitalism, militarism, nuclear arms, the re-armament of Germany, and – intimately associated with all that – “Amerika”. A more immediate cause, and the one they felt most strongly about, was university reform. They wanted more representation on the governing boards, and the dismissal of teachers who had been members of the Nazi party.
Immediately after the Second World War, the victorious Western allies had carried out a “denazification” campaign. It had worked well. Most West German voters became firm democrats. Their children grew up knowing what the Nazi regime had done, but its ideology was literally locked away from them. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, for instance, was inaccessible to post-war generations. One could look at it in a university library, but only if a professor certified that one needed it for approved research. With that sort of policy, the campaign went too far. All ideas should be critically examined.
Shame and guilt kept most parents from talking to their children about what they had done and thought in the years of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, as a generation, the parents were stigmatized in the eyes of their grown children. Those fathers who survived the war had their personal authority weakened by the Nazi police state, and fathers and mothers alike were demoralized by defeat and the revelation of the death camps. The student protestors held the crimes – though not the defeat – against the older generation in general. Some of the more radical activists proudly proclaimed that they were doing what their parents had failed to do: denounce and defy the Nazi regime. They disregarded the fact that they were doing it many years too late. They saw Nazism in all authority – in the schools, the universities, the Federal government, the states’ governments, the press, the commercial world, the military, the police, the banks, and “Amerika”.
Among the fiercest of the student rebels were children of liberal parents. Their sons and daughters accused them of not doing enough to compensate for their past, and of hypocrisy – preaching egalitarianism but living in luxury while others were poor.
In fact, almost nobody in West Germany was poor. All classes had worked extremely hard; and aided by the Marshall Plan, by which America provided vast sums for reconstruction, they had succeeded beyond all expectation in creating astonishing prosperity. It was called an “economic miracle”.
And the student rebels have been called the “the spoilt children of the economic miracle” – ungrateful for the freedom and plenty bestowed on them. They were well housed, well fed, well educated, supplied with all the goods the cornucopia of the West could pour on them. What did they have to complain of?
The answer they needed came from the New Left political philosopher, Herbert Marcuse. He asserted that the apparently free peoples of the West were oppressed by plenty and repressed by tolerance. They were hoodwinked into an illusion of contentment by material abundance and ample choice, while they were actually subject to the vicious tyranny of big business, the military-industrial complex, and “American imperialism”. The student protestors, he declared, were the “advanced consciousness of humanity”, whose mission it was to lead the revolution.
It may seem strange that of all West Europeans, these young Germans, with their country divided between a Communist east and a free west, should be so easily persuaded that New Left Communism was preferable to liberal democracy. Some of them were even refugees from Communism, their families having fled to the West before the Berlin wall was built. How could West Germans be unaware of the poverty, the privation, the bleakness and anxiety of life on the other side of the Wall? Why did the students so naively swallow the Soviet line that the Russian-led Warsaw Pact was all for peace, while American-led NATO was a war–monger? Why did they so furiously demand that the West destroy its nuclear bombs, but not Russia? How could they not know that in the USSR rebels against the system were routinely imprisoned, tortured, killed? If they did know, the knowledge had little or no effect on their passionately held opinions. They blamed America for the war in Vietnam, the wretchedness of the peasants in South America, the oppression of the Iranians, and inequality everywhere; but the USSR they exonerated, and even admired, no matter what it did. Why? Because they accepted the lie that Communism is the opposite of Nazism, rather than its twin, which it is.
A voice raised in support of the protestors was that of the journalist Ulrike Meinhof. She wrote for a leftist periodical, Konkret, owned by her husband. Her columns were ardently pacifist, anti-American and pro-Communist. Her foster-mother Renate Riemeck, who had fled from Communist East Germany, typified the attitude of liberal West Germans to Communism. She believed that “anti-Communism was the fundamental foolishness of the twentieth century”.
Through the early months of I967, the demos in the universities and on the streets grew ever bigger and more unruly, and clashes with the police ever more violent. The students hurled stones at the police and clubbed them with thick staves; the police charged and struck about them with their batons. (Only a very few of the marchers knew that Soviet agents had launched the movement. Not until the fall of the USSR did evidence emerge that it had funded the “peace movement” in Western Europe.)
On the 2nd June, 1967, there was a very large demonstration in West Berlin protesting a visit by the Shah of Iran, and in the midst of a skirmish a student was shot and killed by a police bullet.
For days and nights following the event there were meetings of student organizations for highly emotional discussions of what had happened and what should be done. There was general agreement that the shooting had proved them right – the fascist state was out to kill them. They must organize for resistance. They could only answer violence with violence. At one gathering, a young woman named Gudrun Ensslin shouted , “It’s the generation of Auschwitz – you cannot argue with them.”
Protest demos continued at intervals for another year. In February 1968, older citizens, including large numbers of trade union members, staged a massive counter-demo organized by the Berlin senate, to protest against the students’ revolt and “anarchy”. It was a rare public display of anger by the parent generation.
After the middle of 1968 the students’ movement faded. The majority of protestors were mollified by new university constitutions granting the students more say in the conduct of their affairs. But there were some who could not easily give up the heady excitement and return to normal life. And there were a few who did not find their way back at all.
In 1969 there were random bomb attacks on property, and though they harmed no people, they created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. The official explanation was that those responsible were “isolated individuals and small militant groups on the fringes of the New Left”. But not everyone believed it. Rumors spread of an “underground resistance” being formed. Gudrun Ensslin, the woman who had shouted that the older generation could not be argued with, and her lover, Andreas Baader, had firebombed a store in Frankfurt in March 1968.
They had been sentenced to three years in prison. But as the “fascist” authorities were in fact lenient to a fault, they soon let them out again, pending an appeal. The arsonists absconded, helped by sympathetic members of their parents’ generation: lawyers, parsons, teachers, professors, doctors, journalists, artists. As soon as asked, they provided the fugitives with cars, money, and apartments. Later they excused their weakness by pleading for the terrorists that “their hearts were in the right place, their aim for peace was good, only their violent method was wrong”.
When Baader was re-arrested and returned to prison, after he had been on the run for nearly a year, Ulrike Meinhof helped him escape again. She sought permission for him to work in a public library with her, and the all-too-soft authorities granted it. While they sat together in a room barred to the public, three raiders shot their way past two armed policemen guarding the prisoner, and got him out through a window. Ulrike Meinhof fled with them.
In their reports of the drama, the media designated Baader and Meinhof as the leaders of the group. They called it the “Baader-Meinhof gang”. At the same time the group itself took the name “Red Army Faction”. Its members robbed banks, shot policemen, bombed public buildings, maimed, kidnapped, tortured and murdered until most of them were caught and brought to trial.
At every point of the story until that stage was reached, the authorities of the Federal Republic of West Germany, far from exhibiting fascist tendencies, acted with so much restraint that it often amounted to foolhardy indulgence – at least partly because they feared to be accused of “authoritarianism”. It was the terrorists who acted like fascists.
Their generation could be called “Hitler’s Children” simply because they were born in the Hitler period. But when applied to the terrorist rebels, the label means more than just a generational relationship. It implies a family resemblance between the Nazis and the New Left activists.
An incident in their history illustrates the similarity. On June 27, 1976, an Air France airbus, on its way from Tel Aviv to Paris, was hijacked by two Germans and two Arabs. The pilot was forced to fly the plane to Entebbe, in Uganda, which was then under the dictatorship of Idi Amin (a keen fan of Adolf Hitler). The Jews were separated from the rest of the passengers. In return for the lives and freedom of the Jewish hostages, the terrorists demanded the release of fifty-three prisoners, of whom forty were held in Israel and six in Germany.
Among the Jewish hostages there were some who had been in Hitler’s concentration camps. Yet again they found themselves being sorted out from others by Germans, to be victimized and possibly killed. Again they were ordered about at gunpoint, slapped and shouted at to move quickly: “Schnell!” One of the captives showed the Germans his arm with a number indelibly branded on it, and told them he had got it as a prisoner of the Nazis. He said he had supposed that a new and different generation had grown up in Germany, but with this experience he found it difficult to believe that the Nazi movement had died. One of the hijackers snapped back that this was something entirely different from Nazism; that he was a member of the Red Army Faction, and what they wanted was world Marxist revolution. But the man with the number on his arm and the other Jewish captives could not see a difference.
All but four of the Jewish hostages were rescued by Israeli commandos. Along with the Arab hijackers and 48 Ugandan soldiers, the Germans were shot dead.
Did the terrorists themselves really believe that their actions would inspire a general uprising in West Germany? Or were they just playing a very dangerous game? As they had no obvious cause of their own to justify their tactics, they have been called “the fun revolutionaries”. They themselves feared not being taken seriously, which is why some of them, including Meinhof, Baader and Ensslin, went to Jordan in June 1970, to join the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and undergo “urban guerrilla” training.
The PFLP is an Arab nationalist and Marxist group, founded by a Greek Orthodox doctor, George Habash, who believed that his fight for the Palestinian and Arab nationalist causes was a necessary part of world revolution. He and his men came to despise the German men as soft, inept – and unserious. Both sides disliked each other, though Meinhof said that the training was “much more fun than sitting at a desk with a typewriter”. After two months the Germans returned home.
It was with the PFLP that some members of the group later co-operated in the hijacking of the Air France plane to Entebbe. Three of the six German prisoners whose release was demanded were “Baader-Meinhof” members, but Andreas Baader himself was not on the list. And by that time Ulrike Meinhof was dead, having hanged herself a few weeks earlier. New terrorists joining the “armed struggle” were not sorry to be rid of them. And their former helpers in the general population had finally lost sympathy with them. Meinhof had been given up to the police by a teacher with whom she had sought asylum.
Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin all killed themselves in prison: Meinhof in May 1976, before the court had given its verdict at their trial; Baader and Ensslin in October 1977, after they were sentenced to “three times life plus fifteen years”.
Some members of the gang admitted when they were caught that they had joined because it was “so romantic to go underground and make revolution”. Meinhof might have come close to convincing herself that she was working effectively towards the transformation of the world, but she became ever more confused, to a point where she was rapidly losing her reason. Ensslin, volatile and truculent, and Baader, a doltish bully and natural delinquent, finally understood when the judges pronounced their sentences that what they had done would not be admired, or excused, or forgiven. The game was over.
Their last hope was for martyrdom. They tried to make their suicides look like murder by the “fascist” state. They fantasized that their deaths would enflame multitudes to rise and avenge them by making revolution at last. Of course nothing of the sort happened. They neither led nor inspired a Communist uprising in West Germany. But all the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed, the Berlin Wall came down, and in October 1990 Germany was reunified.
An afterword: What did the Communist Party of the Soviet Union think of them? A Moscow publication of the late 1970s said (rather to my dismay) that I was right to call them “Hitler’s Children”. And it explained that the CPSU scorned them because they were “left-wing Communist individual terrorists” – meaning they were not controlled by the Party – and as such, according to Leninist doctrine, they were not acceptable participants in the “revolutionary armed struggle”.
Jillian Becker June 2015
This article by Nick Cohen appeared in the leftist, anti-Semitic, Islam-loving Guardian. And yet – except where we have raised a few objections – it is an opinion we find we can welcome.
No one could have predicted that the Bangladeshi writer Rafida Bonya Ahmed would make it to London last week. That she is alive at all is a miracle – to use a word of which she would thoroughly disapprove. As I watched her deliver the British Humanist Association’s annual Voltaire lecture , I saw a dignified and principled intellectual it was our duty to emulate and defend. I could not understand why anyone would want to harm, let alone kill, her.
But many do. In February, Islamist fanatics hacked her husband, Avijit Roy, to death with meat cleavers as the couple left a book fair in Dhaka. They nearly killed Ahmed too: slicing off her thumb and covering her body with wounds. To hear her talk about her murdered husband made me long to have met him. He was a typical intellectual – hopeless with anything practical but in love with literature, science and free debate.
Together, Ahmed and Roy ran a secular blog that promoted the writings of young liberal Bangladeshis They wrote on evolution and humanism; they condemned extremism fearlessly, as the title of Roy’s 2014 book The Virus of Faith makes clear. Seeing and fearing a courageous opponent, the enemies of free thought killed him for his ideas.
Ahmed talked about how compromised the Bangladeshi state had become, and you could easily make the mistake of thinking her story had nothing to do with us. Yet there were guards at the doors of her lecture room, searching bags for bombs and guns. A widow, still recovering from the slash of meat cleavers, with no weapon to threaten anyone beyond the power of her thought, is as much a target in London as Dhaka.
The comparisons don’t stop there. Immigration has meant that Bangladeshi politics are British politics too. You will never understand why London’s East End returns politicians as grotesque as George Galloway or mayors as bent as Lutfur Rahman unless you know that Tower Hamlets is Jamaat-e-Islami’s British stronghold. Grasp that the party of Bangladesh’s religious right is always willing to lend its vote bank to politicians who bow before its prejudices and you will gaze on the East End’s fetid politics with less bewilderment.
A bit of an annoyance there: “Bangladesh’s religious right”.
Religious Muslims are intolerant. Islam is intolerant. It is not surely a matter of “right” or “left” in an Islamic country, but of religious or not religious, and so intolerant or tolerant.
Above all else, the fear that religious terror brings, the lies it makes people tell and concessions it forces them to make are as familiar here as on the subcontinent.
Ahmed was in despair about Bangladesh. Islamists had not only murdered her beloved husband, but two other atheist bloggers. As Bangladesh’s ruling party is officially secular, and as Islamists have opposed the state ever since Jamaat-e-Islami death squads collaborated with the Pakistani army in committing crimes that came close to genocide during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence, the naive might assume that the government would be keen to fight her husband’s enemies.
Not so. After one prominent Jamaat activist was sentenced to death for his part in the 1971 war, Islamists responded by demanding that dozens of secularists who had allegedly “insulted” their famously thin-skinned religion be tried for blasphemy and condemned to death. The state did not reply that Bangladeshis had the freedom to believe what they wanted. It said the authorities would prosecute blasphemers under repressive laws that date from the British empire.
But were not made by the British!
Liberals in Bangladesh are therefore on both Islamist death lists and police arrest lists. If killers with meat cleavers don’t get them, cops with warrants will. To Bangladesh’s shame, the state has threatened friends and allies of Ahmed and Roy with prison for the crime of “hurting religious sentiments” and jeopardising “communal harmony”.
Lenin said: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Islamists must feel the same about the “moderate” governments they want to destroy. Instead of taking extremists on and upholding human rights, Bangladesh justifies extremism by turning on the liberal critics of religion and treating them as criminals. In one of the most pathetic interviews you’ll ever read, Sajeeb Wazed, the son of Sheikh Hasina told Reuters that his mother had found it prudent to offer only private condolences to Roy’s family after his assassination. Although “we believe in secularism”, the wretched man explained, the prime minister could not make a public stand “because our opposition party plays that religion card against us relentlessly, we cannot come out strongly. It’s about perception, not about reality”. …
Avijit Roy lost his life because he wanted to change reality, not perception. He knew the dangers, but knew too that there are fights that cannot be ducked. “Those who think victory will be realised without any bloodshed are living in a fool’s paradise,” he wrote before his death. “We risk our lives the moment we started wielding our pens against religious bigotry and fundamentalism.”
Compare the bravery of Bangladeshi intellectuals with the attitude of the bulk of the western intelligentsia. Whole books could be written on why it failed to argue against the fascism of our age – indeed I’ve written a couple myself – but the decisive reason is a fear that dare not speak its name. They are frightened of accusations of racism, frightened of breaking with the consensus, frightened most of all of violence. They dare not admit they are afraid. So they struggle to produce justifications to excuse their dereliction of duty. They turn militant religion into a rational reaction to poverty or western foreign policy. They maintain there is a moral equivalence between militant religion and militant atheism.
We agree. There is no moral equivalence between militant religion and militant atheism. There is no moral equivalence between religion, which is the propagation of lies, and atheism which condemns the lies.
On occasion, they drop even that spurious attempt at evenhandedness and seem to suggest, as Professor Craig Calhoun, director of the London School of Economics, did recently, that the real menace facing universities is not students heading to Syria to rape and behead but secularists whose calls for free speech “challenge the faith and beliefs of religious students” and disrupt “campus harmony”. David Cameron will clearly have trouble taking his mission to “root out” extremism to the LSE.
For all the similarities, there is no moral equivalence between Britain and Bangladesh. They have thinkers of the calibre of Rafida Bonya Ahmed and Avijit Roy, while we have liberals whom Karl Marx might have looked at and said: “Religion is the opium of the intellectuals.”
But Marxism is another religion.
Watch out for the harm the well-meaning do!
Sam Westrop writes at Gatestone:
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has accepted an invitation to become chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR). The ECTR boasts an advisory board comprising a dozen European presidents and prime ministers. It describes itself as a non-governmental body that “fosters understanding and tolerance among peoples of various ethnic origin; educates on techniques of reconciliation; facilitates post-conflict social apprehensions; monitors chauvinistic behaviours, proposes protolerance initiatives and legal solutions”.
Behind all this jargon, Blair and the ECTR claim to promote religious belief and dialogue as a means to challenge hate speech and extremism. Writing in The Times, Blair and ECTR President Moshe Kantor state:
It is our firm belief that it is not religion or faith per se that causes or foments conflict. It is the abuse of religion, which then becomes a mask behind which those bent on death and destruction all too often hide. … The ECTR brings together parties and political leaders who have been at the heart of some of the world’s most difficult conflicts to foster dialogue. Our projects also tackle conflicts from the ground up — focusing on the root causes of intolerance, which are usually ignorance of other faiths and cultures — and so the ECTR takes its message to schools and universities around Europe to encourage tolerance and reconciliation.
The ECTR’s mission is explained in a document entitled A European Framework: National Statue for the Promotion of Tolerance. This “framework” is currently being brought before parliaments all across Europe. For Blair and the ECTR, however, “tolerance” seems not to be freedom of expression, but an Orwellian standard of behaviour to be rigidly enforced and regulated by government.
“Tolerance,” the ECTR claims, is “respect for and acceptance of the expression, preservation and development of the distinct identity of a [religious, racial or cultural] group”.
Proponents of individual liberty, however, argue that true tolerance means tolerating views that we dislike. In a free society, there is no requirement to show “respect” for such views, merely to accept the right of free people to express them.
“There is no need,” the ECTR explains, “to be tolerant to the intolerant.” It seems that European “tolerance” means only tolerating a European agenda.
The notion of “group rights” is deemed to trump individual liberties. The ECTR calls for European countries to introduce a number of “criminal offences punishable as aggravated crimes”, as part of a Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance. These crimes would include:
(iii) Group libel…
(iv) Overt approval of a totalitarian ideology, xenophobia or anti-Semitism.
(v) Public approval or denial of the Holocaust.
(vi) Public approval or denial of any other act of genocide the existence of which has been determined by an international criminal court or tribunal.
These measures are staggering assaults on free speech.
Particularly damaging is the proposed criminal offense of “group libel” – the notion that defamatory statements about a group of people are actionable by individual members of that group.
Group libel has no basis under British law. In 1993, a British court ruled in Derbyshire CC v Times newspapers that governmental entities could not sue for libel because it would lead precisely to undemocratic restrictions on free speech. Group libel laws, such as the ECTR is proposing, would allow extremist religious and political movements to censor reporting and criticisms of their beliefs.
In Britain, Public Order Acts already criminalize incitement to violence. If, for example, a neo-Nazi activist advocates that Jews should be murdered on the streets of London, he would likely be prosecuted.
The ECTR, however, wants to go much farther. As an “aggravated crime”, group libel, the ECTR’s framework explains, also means “defamatory comments… with a view to… slandering the group, [or] holding it to ridicule”.
Blair is repeating his old mistakes. In 2006, his government was condemned for its attempts to criminalize anyone who “intends…to stir up religious hatred or was reckless as to whether religious hatred would be stirred up”.
After losing a vote in parliament and after politicians, comedians and journalists forcefully argued that such proscriptions would censor honest criticism of religious groups, Blair was forced to accept amendments to the legislation.
To criminalize ridicule would be disastrous. In a free society, no one has the right not to be offended. As Conservative MP Dominic Grieve said in 2006, the proposals were an attempt to “appease” some minority groups.
Along with criminalizing – in the name of tolerance – views that the ECTR deems intolerable, Blair’s group also proposes Orwellian means of regulation to further its “tolerance” ideology. “The Government shall ensure,” the ECTR advocates, “that public broadcasting (television and radio) stations will devote a prescribed percentage of their programmes to promoting a climate of tolerance.”
In addition, government funded bodies will impose and enforce such tolerance, with the ECTR framework calling on governments to “establish a National Tolerance Monitoring Commission as an independent body — composed of eminent persons from outside the civil service — vested with the authority to promote tolerance.” A separate governmental body will also be set up to “supervise the implementation” of the Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance.
The ECTR also lobbies for “entrenching state funding for religious institutions into law”.
Once again, Blair seems unable to learn from his own follies. Under the Blair government, the authorities poured millions of pounds of funding into the pockets of religious groups, which the government believed would challenge extremism and terrorism. Publicly-funded groups, however, included Islamist organizations connected with terrorist movements.
The current Prime Minister, David Cameron, has since noted:
As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called ‘non-violent extremists’, and they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. … Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement.
Europe needs to divorce the state from oppressive interest groups; it should not do the opposite and embrace them further.
The ECTR’s proposals only serve to reinforce the dangerous flaws of multiculturalism policy. Under this system, people are classified as members of religious and cultural groups, not as individual citizens with individual rights. By defining individuals by the groups to which they belong, you deny individuals their own voice and rights of citizenship.
In a recent case before London’s High Court, a British judge ruled that an illegal immigrant who beat his own son should be forgiven because of the “cultural context”. In other words, the law should protect only white children; the ruling implicitly condones the beating of minority children — all in the name of diversity and tolerance. Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equality Commission, described the decision as “the effective abandonment of the migrant family’s child on the altar of multiculturalism”.
As an extension of multiculturalism policy, the ECTR’s proposed measures seek to protect the various groups by which European states classify their citizens. Such laws and regulation would further divide Europe into tribal groupings, composed of various religious, ethnic, cultural and political movements – all in competition with each other for government patronage and support.
By criminalizing our freedom to criticize religious movements, or even to express intolerant thoughts, and by offering legal protection to religious groups from ridicule or insult, Blair and the ECTR would destroy the most important tenet of individual liberty: freedom of expression.
A free society cannot proscribe toleration of the intolerant. Actual tolerance requires free citizens to tolerate views they dislike.
We should certainly not, as the ECTR advocates, be forced to “respect” views that the government declares suitable.
In a democracy, the law is designed to protect individuals against the agenda of oppressive interest groups. But Blair and the ECTR are proposing the very opposite. Under government-enforced “tolerance”, extremists would flourish, honest critics would be silenced, freedom of expression would be criminalized, and, in deference to religious and cultural “groups”, the individual would lose his right to be an individual.
An outraged Briton makes a point about Islam and asks a question that needs answering:
Nearly a hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire was brought to an end when the German-Turkish alliance was defeated in the First World War. Its former territories in the Middle East became independent states or temporary mandates of European powers.
Efraim Karsh, reviewing a new book* on the subject, corrects errors of fact on which its author relies – and which have been all too generally accepted.
The corrections are important, so we reproduce the entire article:
A century after the catastrophic blunder that led to the destruction of the then longest-surviving empire on earth, culpability is still ascribed to the European powers. Rather than view the Ottoman entry into the First World War on the losing side for what it was – a failed imperialist bid for territorial aggrandizement and reassertion of lost glory – the Muslim empire has been portrayed as the hapless victim of European machinations, driven into the world conflict by overbearing powers eager to expedite its demise and gobble up its lands.
Emblematic of the wider tendency to view Middle Easterners as mere objects, whose history is but a function of their unhappy interaction with the West, this conventional wisdom has proved remarkably resistant to the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and Eugene Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans is no exception to this rule.
To begin with, in an attempt to underscore the Ottoman Empire’s untenable position on the eve of the war, Rogan reproduces the standard depiction of the protracted period preceding the empire’s collapse, or the Eastern Question as it is commonly known, as the steady European encroachment on Ottoman territory. “The looming prospect of a European general war”, he writes, “raised the imminent threat of a Russian annexation of Istanbul, the straits, and eastern Anatolia – and the ultimate dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire among the Entente Powers. France was known to covet Syria, Britain had interests in Mesopotamia, and Greece wished to expand its grip over the Aegean.”
Reality, however, was quite different. Far from setting their sights on Ottoman lands, the European powers had consistently shored up the ailing Muslim empire for well over a century, saving it time and again from assured destruction – from Muhammad Ali’s imperialist bid of the 1830s, to the Balkan crises of the 1870s, to the Balkan war of 1912–13. And it was none other than Russia that acted as the Ottoman Empire’s latest saviour, halting its former Bulgarian subject at the gates of Istanbul, not once but twice: in November 1912 and March 1913. Several months later St Petersburg joined London and Berlin in underscoring “the necessity of preserving the Turkish Realm in its present form”.
All this means that by the outbreak of the Great War, the Ottoman Empire was scarcely a spurned and isolated power in danger of imminent destruction. Rather, it was in the enviable position of being courted by the two warring camps: the German-Austro-Hungarian Central Alliance wished its participation in the war, while the Anglo-French-Russian Triple Entente desired its neutrality. So much so that on August 18, 1914, less than a month after the outbreak of hostilities, the Entente’s ambassadors to Istanbul assured the Grand Vizier of the empire’s continued survival were it to stay out of the war, while the British Foreign Secretary vowed the preservation of Ottoman territorial integrity “in any conditions of peace which affected the Near East, provided she preserved a real neutrality during the war”. Five days later, at Ottoman request, the three powers put down this pledge in writing.
Had the Ottomans accepted this guarantee and kept out of the war, their empire would have readily weathered the storm. But then, by the time the Entente made its far-reaching proposal, Istanbul had already concluded a secret alliance with Germany that had effectively transformed it into a belligerent. This, nevertheless, didn’t prevent it from maintaining the false pretence of neutrality vis-à-vis the Entente, or even feigning interest in joining its ranks, while at the same time laying the groundwork for war and exploiting Berlin’s eagerness for the immediate initiation of hostilities to extract substantial military and economic benefits.
Preserving the myth of immaculate Turkish victimhood, Rogan claims that “the Ottoman leadership had no wish to enter a general European conflict” and was grudgingly driven to the German embrace by the Entente’s indifference, if not hostility, to its predicament. His proof is the supposed French rebuff of an alliance proposal, allegedly made during a visit to Paris in July 1914 by the military leader Djemal Pasha, as well as the British requisition of two warships commissioned by the Ottomans. “The British decision to requisition the ships was treated as a national humiliation in Turkey and ruled out the possibility of any accord between Britain and the Ottoman Empire”, Rogan writes. “The very next day, 2 August 1914, the Ottomans concluded a secret treaty of alliance with Germany.”
The problem with these well-worn stories is that there is no shred of evidence of Djemal’s alleged overture (its only mention is in his memoirs, written after the war and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire with the clear aim of exonerating himself from responsibility for this calamity), while the requisition announcement was made on August 3 – a day after the conclusion of the secret Ottoman-German alliance.
But even if the announcement had been made a few days earlier, it would have made no difference whatsoever for the simple reason that the terms of the Ottoman-German alliance had already been agreed on July 28. Moreover, it was the Ottomans rather than the Germans who had opted for an alliance within days of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 – weeks before the outbreak of hostilities; who were the driving force in the ensuing secret negotiations; and who largely prevailed over their German counterparts in deciding the alliance’s broad contours. As Kaiser Wilhelm ordered his more sceptical negotiators: “A refusal or a snub would result in Turkey’s going over to Russo-Gallia, and our influence would be gone forever … Under no circumstances whatsoever can we afford to turn them away”.
The truth of the matter is that the Ottoman Empire was neither forced into the First World War in a last-ditch attempt to ensure its survival, nor manoeuvred into it by an overbearing German ally and a hostile Entente, but rather plunged head on into the whirlpool. War, for the Ottoman leaders, was not seen as a mortal danger to be averted, but a unique opportunity to be seized. They did not seek “an ally to protect the empire’s vulnerable territory from the consequences of such war” but a powerful underwriter of their imperialist ambitions; and apart from their admiration for Germany and their conviction that it would ultimately be victorious, the Entente had less to offer by way of satisfying these ambitions, first and foremost “the destruction of our Muscovite enemy to obtain a natural frontier to our empire, which should include and unite all branches of our race” (in the words of the Ottoman declaration of war).
Just as the fall of the Ottoman Empire was not the result of external machinations but a self-inflicted catastrophe, so the creation of the modern Middle East on its ruins was not an imperialist imposition but the aggregate outcome of intense pushing and shoving by a multitude of regional and international bidders for the Ottoman war spoils in which the local actors, despite their marked inferiority to the great powers, often had the upper hand.
While Rogan occasionally alludes to this reality, these allusions are far too sparse and timid to break from the standard misrepresentation of the post-war regional order as an artificial Western creation. He aptly notes that “the map drawn by Sykes and Picot bears no resemblance to the Middle East today”, yet reiterates the standard depiction of the agreement as a colonial imposition rather than a British effort “to reconcile the interests of France with the pledges given to the [Arabs]” (to use Albert Hourani’s words), or indeed – the first-ever great power recognition of Arab right to self determination (well before President Woodrow Wilson turned this principle into a driving force of international politics). He similarly observes that Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia (or the Hijaz, as it was then known) “achieved independence within frontiers of their own devising”, yet parrots the conventional wisdom that the imperial powers outlandishly “imposed the borders and systems of governments of most states in the region”.
In fact, most states in the region were established pretty much as a result of local exertions. The modern state of Iraq, to give a prominent example, was created in its present form (rather than divided into three states in accordance with the existing realities of local patriotism and religious affinities) on behalf of Emir Faisal of Mecca and at his instigation, while Jordan was established to satisfy the ambitions of Faisal’s older brother Abdullah. Likewise, the nascent Zionist movement exploited a unique convergence of factors to harness British support to its national cause, to have this support endorsed by the international community and incorporated into the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, and to cling tenaciously to these achievements until their fruition in the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948.
Eugene Rogan acknowledges that “the borders of the post-war settlement have proven remarkably resilient”. Yet he fails to draw the selfevident conclusion that this state of affairs reflects their congruity with local realities, instead echoing the common refrain that ascribes the region’s endemic volatility to the supposed dissatisfaction with these boundaries.
Had this actually been the case, Arab leaders would have seized some of the numerous opportunities they had over the past century to undo the post-Ottoman order and unify the so-called Arab Nation; and they could have readily done this by peaceful means rather than incessant fighting. But then, violence has hardly been imported to the Middle East as a by-product of European imperialism; it was a part of the political culture long before. And if anything, it is the region’s tortuous relationship with modernity, most notably the stubborn adherence to its millenarian religiously based imperialist legacy, which has left physical force as the main instrument of political discourse to date.
But to acknowledge this would mean abandoning the self-righteous victimization paradigm that has informed Western scholarship for so long, and treating Middle Easterners as equal free agents accountable for their actions, rather than giving them a condescending free pass for political and moral modes of behaviour that are not remotely acceptable in Western societies. Sadly, The Fall of the Ottomans signals no such paradigm shift.
* The Fall of the Ottomans by Eugene Rogan. The review first appeared in the Times Literary Supplement and was reprinted in the Wall Street Journal.
In the video below, Pat Condell, our fellow atheist, speaks eloquently about the many ways in which Islam is offensive.
The leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Ed Miliband, says he will ban and punish “Islamophobia” if he becomes Prime Minister, which he very well might if his socialist party wins the forthcoming general election. He is saying this in order to woo Muslim voters. Most Muslim votes go to the Labour Party, but some Muslims say that voting at all is wrong because only Allah must govern mankind. Also, Ed Miliband is Jewish. Are the Muslims who go to the polls likely to cast their votes for a Jewish leader?
If he gets into 10 Downing Street and has his Party make it a crime to criticize Islam, what will happen to Pat Condell? We are pretty certain he won’t stop making his videos, speaking freely, and expressing loud and clear the highly moral loathing and fully justified contempt he has for the criminal religion of Muhammad.
Obama’s courting of Castro, Putin, the Ayatollah Khamenei, and the King of Saudi Arabia; his appointment of policy advisers who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood; his rude eviction of the bust of Churchill from the Oval Office, his bullying of the President of Israel, and his cold-shouldering of Canada over the Keystone oil pipeline are signs that he is – what? Could they be read as indications that he is biased towards Communism and Islam, and is not at all keen on the values and polities of the West?
They could not only be easily read as that; it would be difficult to interpret them any other way.
Yet half the voting population cannot see it. Or if they can see it, they must like it, since they twice voted him into power.
But what are we saying? Half the adult, literate, sane people of the United States of America prefer Communism and/or Islam to their own free republic? Surely that cannot be true?
So what else could account for what happened? Well, perhaps most of them simply paid no attention to Barack Obama’s ideologies – although they could easily have discovered them before his first election to the presidency – and voted him into power for the purely racist reason that he’s black and they wanted (paradoxically) to show they were against discrimination on the grounds of race? And didn’t that prove they were nice people?
Now they’ve seen what a terrible mistake it was not to take his ideas and affiliations into account, they won’t do anything like that again – will they? They won’t again choose a president for such an extremely poor “reason”? A candidate’s race, color, ethnicity, or gender will not be seen as a qualification in itself for supreme power?
And next time they’ll be sure to take a candidate’s ideology into account – right?
We quote from an article at Front Page titled The Arabian Candidate, by William Kilpatrick:
In The Manchurian Candidate, the son of a prominent right-wing politician is captured by the Soviets and brainwashed in a secret Manchurian location. His task is to assassinate a presidential candidate, thus ensuring the election of the demagogic vice-president. …
The film has several parallels to current events. The main difference is that in those days, Americans had to be brainwashed into serving enemy interests by psy-ops teams. Nowadays, they come self-brainwashed with some indoctrinative assist from the American educational system.
In the film, a scary lady with leftist sympathies who looks vaguely like Hillary Clinton manipulates her husband into high political office. In real life, a scary lady with leftist leanings [who is Hillary Clinton] … manipulates herself into high political office.
In her case, teams of brainwashers are not required, since she has brainwashed herself into believing that foreign governments are dumping truckloads of cash into her family foundation because she’s such a charming and intelligent woman. And also because Arab sovereigns like nothing better than to do their part to improve the lives of the poor, the hungry, the environmentally underserved, and kids who need braces — in short, the very causes for which the foundation was founded.
Another similarity is that in the film, the [scary lady] character has some sort of hypnotic power over her son, the unwitting assassin. Whenever it begins to dawn on him that something funny is going on, she flashes a Queen of Diamonds playing card and he falls into a catatonic state of complete obedience. In the present situation [Hillary Clinton] has merely to flash the gender card and, presto, skeptical voters fall back into line.
There are parallels to other movies as well. Today’s Queen of Diamonds has a secret server in her home so that her exchanges with foreign dono- I mean “diplomats” can’t be traced. I’m not sure if the server takes up only one room of the palatial house, or a whole suite of rooms. And who knows what’s in the cavern-like basement? It’s all faintly reminiscent of those James Bond thrillers in which the villain’s remote island estate sits atop a vast underground military-industrial complex.
At some point the analogy breaks down. You could still convince a sixties audience that leftists were willing to sell out the country. We, on the other hand, have convinced ourselves that we live in a brave new world where such things never happen — at least, not in modern Western societies. No one would dare to pull a fast one on us because we’re just too smart. … So if it were discovered that Arabs controlled the White House, we would shrug our shoulders and say, “At this point, what does it matter?”
The Clinton-Arab connection actually goes back to the time when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas and worked to secure a hefty Saudi contribution to a Middle-Eastern studies program at the University of Arkansas. But let’s skip all that and fast forward to relatively recent times when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed her longtime aide Huma Abedin as Deputy Chief of Staff at the State Department. When it was discovered that Abedin’s family was deeply involved in the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia, very few eyebrows were raised. After all, even President Obama had relatives in the Muslim Brotherhood. So it would have been silly to make something of it.
It’s probably just a coincidence that while working for the Clintons, Huma herself was the assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs which — you guessed it — is a Muslim Brotherhood journal. Before that, and while still interning at the White House, she was an executive board member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at George Washington University. The MSA was the first Muslim Brotherhood organization in the United States and George Washington was the first Muslim president. Well, the latter hasn’t yet been firmly established, but it’s just a matter of time until those Saudi-funded Mid-East studies professors at the University of Arkansas and the Saudi-funded professors at Georgetown (Bill’s alma mater) discover the prayer rug in the attic at Mount Vernon. It’s also probably a coincidence that, like her boss, Huma conducted State Department business using her own personal e-mail address, connected, one supposes, to the same master server that served her master so well … er, mistress.
Abedin also worked until recently for the Clinton Foundation. Again, this is no doubt a pure coincidence and, as the old saying goes, it has nothing to do with Islam. … Today’s government officials seem curiously lacking in curiosity. In 2012, Michelle Bachmann and four other House members wrote letters to the Inspector Generals of several government agencies asking them to conduct an investigation into Muslim Brotherhood penetration of the government. They were particularly concerned about Huma Abedin in view of her family connections and influential position. They noted thatthe Clinton State Department had “taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests”.
The request was dismissed by numerous congressmen and senators as “offensive”, “insensitive,” and even “hurtful”. By that time the machinery of the “Islamophobia” industry was already in high gear and it was deemed prudent even by Republicans to defend Abedin and to damn her accusers …
Still, the case for an inquiry seemed strong. … Even if Abedin was innocent of any wrongdoing, the State Department’s own guidelines about foreign family connections would disqualify her for a security clearance for such a sensitive position.
But then, again, a lot of people in sensitive positions don’t seem to qualify for a security clearance. For example, if all your closest relatives were leftists or communists, if your chief mentors were, respectively, a member of the Communist Party and a radical left-wing preacher, and if you used to hang out with known terrorists, you probably couldn’t get a job as a night watchman at an auto parts warehouse. On the other hand, if someone with the same background throws his hat into the presidential ring, he can become Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, and get to set foreign policy.
He also gets to appoint Secretaries of State. It shouldn’t be any surprise if they turn out to be the kind of people who can’t be bothered with security checks. Such people seem to live in an ethereal realm that puts them above suspicion and above conflicts of interest. Normally, when a Secretary of State receives tens of millions in donations from countries that support the spread of a radical ideology, it would be a sign that something is terribly wrong. For an analogy, ask yourself if you would keep someone on at your firm if she had access to sensitive trade secrets and yet received huge gifts from rival corporations while conducting company business on her private server.
You would probably get rid of her pronto. But that’s only if you apply the normal rules of logic — which apparently don’t apply to Secretaries of State appointed by President Obama.
Now comes a surprise – or at least, a surprise to us. We did not know that John Kerry has family connections in Iran. How much does it explain?
If you applied such logic, you might also think there was something awkward about the fact that current Secretary of State John Kerry’s daughter is married to an Iranian who has extensive family ties in Iran. …
The FBI usually won’t grant security clearance to “individuals who are married to nationals of an enemy nation or have family members living in that country, for fear of divided loyalties or, more simply, blackmail”.
Of course, you would have to be some kind of conspiracy nut to think that having vulnerable in-laws in Iran would in any way compromise Secretary Kerry’s negotiations with the representatives of a country whose leaders routinely indulge in “death to America” rhetoric.
Undoubtedly, the President consulted with his senior adviser Valerie Jarrett about the matter. Since Jarrett was born in Iran and spoke Persian as a child, she would, by current standards of expertise, be assumed to have deep insight into the Persian mind. She could have assured the president that “Great Satan” and “Death to America” are typical of the rhetorical exuberance that characterizes the rich and vibrant Iranian culture. Moreover, she could have allayed any concerns about blackmail. Anyone who has studied Cliff Notes on Islam knows that blackmail runs counter to the deeply held beliefs of the mullahs.
Jarretts’ family left Iran when she was five, but apparently those five years were enough to qualify her as an expert on Iranian affairs. According to Discover the Networks, it was revealed in 2012 that for several months, Jarrett “had been leading secret negotiations with representatives of Iran’s Supreme leader … in an effort to normalize relations between the U.S. and Iran”.
The mind spins at the – what’s the word? — the audacity of it all. But the curious thing is not that there are people in high places willing to put self-interest ahead of the national interest. Such people are always with us. The curious thing is that the American people and the American press accept it with such equanimity.
During the Obama-Clinton-Kerry-Jarrett-Abedin years, Russia seized the Crimea, ISIS seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, the Taliban re-established itself in Afghanistan, allies stopped trusting us, enemies were emboldened, the Middle East was set on fire, and the Army was drastically reduced. Oh, and the way was cleared for Iran to have nuclear bombs. Future generations — if there are any — will wonder what we were thinking.
What we were thinking, they may discover, goes something like this (in shorthand brain language): “Mustn’t think that! Mustn’t say that! Not nice! What will people think!” You’d have to go back to the Victorian era to find another society with so much concern for propriety of thought and speech. … A sort of suicidal etiquette that chokes off common sense has grown up in our society. Under the rules of the new etiquette, we aren’t allowed to say that the Emperor has no clothes. We dare not even point out that the Emperor and his ministers appear to be throwing open the gates to the enemy.
Let’s see: The people of the United States elect as president a man they know very little about. When it becomes obvious that he has deep leftist sympathies combined with deep Islamist sympathies, they elect him again. He, in turn, appoints one Secretary of State who is beholden to Arab largesse, and then, after she steps down, he replaces her with a man who … has close family ties with Iran.
This time at last, in the coming election year, the Republican candidates whose broadcast debates will have the attention of millions of voters must take advantage of their opportunity to break through the protective wall the mainstream media have put round the Obama administration and the Democratic candidates. They must make all this – the ideology, the motivation, and the practices of Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and the rest of the gang – so well known to the electorate that no one who can read, watch TV, listen to radio, attend a political rally, or receive news through any medium, will be able to avoid knowing it. Or avoid knowing how perilous it is to their freedom, their safety, and even their survival.
Then if most voters choose Hillary Clinton for president …