Revisiting between Burke and Paine in the twenty-first century
Marko makes an excellent case as to why he is not "Burke at home". He makes a very clear distinction between the politics of radical liberal democracy (Paine) and conservatism (Burke), which is important to hold on to. (I like his claiming of Charles James Fox as an alternative model to Burke.)
He also takes up my criticisms:
Bob from Brockley questions whether the West can be upheld as a positive model, given the murderous record of Western colonialism, and Western support for murderous dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Pinochet. As I made clear in my original article, the dichotomy ‘Western vs anti-Western’ cannot be projected back in time and equated with the Cold War divide between the Western and Communist blocs, let alone with the divide between the Western colonial powers and the colonised world. The ‘Western vs anti-Western’ dichotomy is a new one; the end of colonialism and of the Cold War has enabled both Western values and the Western alliance to assume a more unambiguously positive character that they did not possess before. As a historian of the Yugoslav Revolution, I can safely say I view the Communist-led sides in the Yugoslav, Greek and Albanian civil wars of the 1940s as the positive ones. I would not have supported the Americans in Vietnam or the Contras in Nicaragua. But these are yesterday’s wars that took place in yesterday’s world. I fear that Bob’s argument dangerously resembles the moral relativist one: that the geopolitical West is wrong today because it can never shed its guilt for past crimes. The ‘Western camp’ that I support is one that, as I made clear, embraces both former Cold Warriors and former Marxists, irrespective of whether they once held correct or incorrect views on Pinochet or Mao, the Contras or the Khmer Rouge. The point is where they are now, not where they were then.I appreciate that 'the West' he is talking about is not exactly the Cold War West. I appreciate that the West has moved on from its high imperialist past and its Cold War past; I hope I am not still in the jungle fighting yesterday's wars, as some Stalinophile lefties are. I am glad that Marko has not become so "decent" as to side with the Cold War West in those historic wars, as Oliver Kamm, for example, has done in some cases: it is as important not to read today's anti-totalitarianism back on to yesterday's wars as it is not to read the Cold War into today's struggle.
But I believe that 'the West' continues to play a role that is not wholly positive, but, rather, plays a contradictory role.
It is the home of liberal democracy, which it has promoted elsewhere in some contexts. For this reason, the West is a beacon for democrats across the world. Western efforts at "exporting" democracy are A Good Thing.
But the West is also the heart of a global economic system that is bad for the world, that exploits and impoverishes peoples and the planet. The West in this latter sense must not be confused with the leading Western nations - as the faux "anti-imperialists" of the idiot left think, wrongly seeing neo-liberalism as a new imperialism. But the West in this latter sense is not A Good Thing. As Peter said, "political economy and the sharp inequalities... are NOT the 'root causes' of terrorism, but ARE of hunger, misery, environmental collapse and human despair."
While I am happy to ally myself with pro-Western people in the first sense, I am not happy to call myself pro-Western because of the second issue. Therefore, I cannot accept that the line between pro-Westerners and anti-Westerners is the principal line in politics today. The line between those who support the neo-liberal destruction of humanity and our habitat and those who oppose it is still - vitally - important.
The final issue is far more trivial.
I didn't mean to suggest that Hoare's (extremely useful) diagram missed out the libertarian and Third Camp left. What I wanted to drew attention to was the problem in defining the 'old' Left/Right paradigm in terms of Plan v Market. Support for planning and state control was the (wrong) solution proposed by some opponents of an earlier phase of capitalism, but was never the only, or indeed, best one. To suggest it was creates a straw man of the the Old Left.
New Centrist argues (and both Peter and Bob seem to agree):
Hoare also ignores the existence of ultra-leftists, anarchists, and other self-styled revolutionaries who advocate a third perspective that is classically “anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist” while also critical of Jihadist terrorism. I’m referring here to Three Way Fight, World War 4 Report, etc.In fact, the radical leftists of this kind appear on my diagram in the far left, equidistant between the pro-Western and anti-Western camps.
To conclude, I agree with Marko's point that "In practice, if you want to avoid irrelevance and oblivion, you have to take sides in the struggle that really matters." I agree that the struggle for democracy matters and we need to take sides on this. But I believe the struggle for social justice also matters, and we need to take sides on this too.
Other links: Simply Jews, Dodgeblogium.
Also read: this fantastic spoof at Decentpedia, as linked to by Marko.