Saturday, August 31, 2013

From Bob's archive: Cosmopolitanism or nationalism?

We are nearing the end of this sequence. This is from December 2007.

I've been reading David Hirsh's excellent working paper on left antisemitism (pdf here). At some point, a proper post about it. For the moment, just one thing.

Hirsh, drawing on thinkers like Robert FineHannah ArendtHal Draper and Isaac Deutscher, talks of his analysis as a cosmopolitan one, "a framework for doing social theory which disrupts a methodologically nationalist tendency to view the division of the world into nations as being rather more fixed than it is."Fine, he writes, describes the appeal of cosmopolitanism as having to do with the idea that "human beings can belong anywhere, humanity has shared predicaments and … we find our community with others in exploring how these predicaments can be faced in common."

That's certainly a position I would endorse.

Jogo sent me this extaordinary piece on that paranoid delusional megalomaniac George Galloway, calling the police because two journalists who went to see him turned out to be agents of ZOG, the Zionist Entity (that's how he saw it). Listen to the audio clip.

Gorgeous George sets out his vision for what counts as just and understandable suicide bombing (settlers, soldiers) and what counts as unjust (pizza joints). He sees Hamas as a perfectly legitimate national liberation movement. Etc etc.

The thing I want to draw your attention to is in these passages:

Galloway explained Osama bin Laden is a terrorist since the al-Qaida chieftain, whom Galloway claimed was "armed and financed by the U.S." in the 1970s and 1980s, is a "pan-Islamic, nihilistic leader leading a nihilistic organization which seeks to bring about the collapse of national states and re-emergence of the caliphate." 
Galloway stated Hamas, by contrast, is not a terror group: 
"[Hamas] wants to liberate their country, which has been illegally occupied, and to reassemble their nation, which has been scattered to the four winds. That's an entirely legitimate goal," he said.
I have commented before on Galloway's racial nationalist worldview: a vision of a world divided into nation-states, each ruled by a fuhrer figure like, say, Hugo Chavez or George Galloway. This illustrates it perfectly: national(ist) movements good/global movements bad.

Galloway's nationalist methodology is of course just a slightly more extreme version of the nationally-minded "anti-imperialism" of much of the post-Cold War left: an internationalism which is not cosmopolitan but rather "inter-nationalist".

Within the Marxist left, this sort of "inter-nationalism" gets its authority from Lenin's belief in national self-determination as a fundamental right of nation-states (against Rosa Luxembourg's cosmopolitan view). There were a couple of steps from Lenin's views to Stalin's dogmatic, simplistic version of it, and then another couple of steps to Stalin's WWII embrace of Greater Russian nationalism and increasingly paranoid post-WWII obsession with the scourge of rootless cosmopolitanism. Increasingly, since the end of the Cold War, the "anti-imperialist" worldview has become even more theoretically impoverished, and able to embrace all and any reactionary movement that manages to portray itself as anti-imperialist, whether that is Milosovic's Serbian nationalism, Chavez's authoritarian nationalism or, as in this case, the theocratic-fascist Hamas.

This embrace of the nation-state as the ground for "resistance" to globalized capital, and the consequent demonisation of the figure of the cosmopolitan, serves as a common rallying point for the rococco left, Third Worldists, conservative European anti-Americans (like Jacques Chirac and Rowan Williams), and the far right . Galloway, in all the incoherence of his politics, exemplifies this convergence.


A critical comment from Jogo in the comment thread:

Jogo said...
I hate Galloway, but I think he was -- if not Borat-ed -- at least somewhat sandbagged by those two. I don't know Klein, other than as the author of the "Schmoozing" book. But I do know Humphries. I have listened to his radio show plenty of times. He is a firmly rightwing ideological man with a worldview in which Galloway is a demon. And his show reflects him exactly. 
"False pretenses?" Well, it depends on what you mean. If you say to a public, elected person: "I'd like to interview you," you don't generally mean "I'd like to correct you on tape and create a hostile atmosphere and make some audio-theater and play it for the folks back home." That's a bit different from other methods of interrogation that interviewers use. It's one thing for Oriana Fallaci to sneer at Arafat on tape, but I'm afraid Klein and Humphries don't have quite her authority and panache. 
Also, I think you can tell from the tone of their voices (especially the man with the younger-sounding voice -- Klein, I guess) that they're after Galloway's hide. And at some point Galloway smells a rat, and I don't think he was completely wrong to do so. Klein may be, technically, not an Israeli or an employee of Israeli media, but, as Galloway said, "he might as well be." Humphries might not be a ZOG agent, but if there were such a thing as ZOG, Humphries could be its spokesman. 
At the same time, a public, elected person is obliged to put up with hostile questioning, being made to face his contradictions or lies, or being forced to make himself clear. But K/H went ever so slightly over a line, I think. And you have to separate this from your extreme distaste for Galloway. 
Galloway was being quite rational. You can see -- once you accept his political definitions and morality -- that he's making sense. So, if you're an interviewer in this position you can either let the man talk, and poke and prod him; or try to make HIM accept YOUR political definitions and morality. Which he isn't going to do. And Galloway isn't going to do it even hypothetically.
Humphries is from /Talk Radio Something./ OK, so what? Mumia abu-Jamal no doubt had press credentials from some outfit or "news service."
If a reporter from Stormfront elevision or Turner Diary Media Outlet wanted to interview you, you'd know right away what he was up to. And you could accept or decline his request. But what if he had credentials from, say, "The Deep River Press Service," which was not /actually/ Stormfront, but completely sympathetic and ideologically identical to Stormfront? And halfway through the interview you smelled a rat?

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