Foreign Policy, Top Stories

‘Anti-Imperialism’ and Apologetics for Murder

A consistent feature of the British socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been support for Islamists and Third World dictators. Corbyn himself has dined with his “friends” in Hamas and Hezbollah, and saluted the Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro. Andrew Murray, one of his consultants, is a sympathiser with the Juche regime in North Korea. Yasmine Dar, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, is an admirer of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Chris Williamson MP, Corbyn’s longtime supporter and friend, is a big fan of the Castroite regime in Cuba. And Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s Director of Strategy and Communications, was formerly a Guardian columnist, of whom the leftist commentator Brian Whitaker once wrote:

[Milne] views international politics almost entirely through an anti-imperialist lens. That, in turn, leads to a sympathetic view of those dictatorial regimes which characterise themselves as anti-imperialist. It’s the same with Islamist movements where they oppose Western-backed regimes…

To understand this curious phenomenon it is necessary to return to the West after World War Two.

First World Failure, and Third World Hope

By the end of World War Two, Western communists had all but abandoned hope in Western revolution. Soviet communism was an obvious catastrophe and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Clement Attlee’s reforms in the US and Britain had stripped more radical leftists of their support base. France and Italy, perhaps, offered more potential for the Left but, even there, communists tended to evolve into mainstream social democrats. And so radical leftists refocused their energies on cultural activism in their own nations and anti-imperialist activities abroad.

By this time, the European empires had all but collapsed. There was little hope for them, and nor should there have been. Burgeoning independence movements were becoming popular, and horrifying events such as the Bengal Famine had done much to discredit European rule. A bipolar world order emerged, with the United States as the most powerful Western force in international affairs. Rather than engaging in explicit empire-building it tended instead to support sympathetic governments against the Soviet Union and its communist allies. Leftists had, it must be said, justifiable complaints with this. The US propped up unambiguously appalling tyrants in Guatemala and Indonesia and entangled itself in a disastrous and brutal war in Vietnam. More recently, leftists correctly opposed the hubristic interventionist recklessness that led to the horrors of Iraq.

The anti-imperialist Left’s mistake has not always been its opposition to Western policies, it has been its reflexive idealisation of the West’s opponents. To some extent, one can explain this as a consequence of an instinctive sympathy with the underdog. With the exception of the Soviet Union, opponents of the United States and other Western powers have been comparatively poor and weak, and dependent on resilience and resourcefulness.

John Pilger, 2011

The problem, as anybody who has owned dogs knows, is that small dogs can be at least as vicious as their larger cousins, and that they can also bully dogs who are smaller than themselves. The veteran left-wing journalist John Pilger was moved to rhetorical tears by the “poorly armed, audacious” Iraqi “resistance,” but neglected to notice that their homemade bombs were eviscerating civilians in mosques and marketplaces as well as the American, British, and Iraqi soldiers he believed were legitimate targets.

But compassion for the oppressed is not sufficient to explain this odd phenomenon. There are people on the Left who believe that revolutionary movements in the Third World are not just underdogs but saviours—more committed, more courageous, and more principled than the old, weak, pampered liberal capitalist West.

Theirs was a romantic and revolutionary ideology that drew heavily upon Frantz Fanon’s 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth. Born in the Caribbean island of Martinique, Fanon became a fierce opponent of European imperialism and an advocate of pan-African struggle. In the conclusion of his book, Fanon wrote:

Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe. For centuries they have stifled almost the whole of humanity in the name of a so-called spiritual experience.

Of course, Europeans visited terrible atrocities on African, Asian, and American peoples, as well as on one another. But this simple-minded Manichean worldview cannot accommodate the Muslim conquests, the Arabic slave trade, or the Empire of Japan. Inhumanity and imperialism were universal afflictions and by no means the preserve of Europeans.

In his famous preface to Fanon’s book, the existentialist philosopher, august essayist, Soviet apologist, and sex pest Jean-Paul Sartre rhapsodised about the anti-colonial energies of Fanon and the movements he represented. “Europeans,” he wrote:

…you must open this book and enter into it. After a few steps in the darkness you will see strangers gathered around a fire; come close, and listen, for they are talking of the destiny they will mete out to your trading-centres and to the hired soldiers who defend them. They will see you, perhaps, but they will go on talking among themselves, without even lowering their voices…Now, at a respectful distance, it is you who will feel furtive, nightbound and perished with cold. Turn and turn about; in these shadows from whence a new dawn will break, it is you who are the zombies.

Westerners, among whom Sartre’s ideological predecessors had attempted to stoke revolution, were complicit to a man. Even if you had never owned slaves or defended imperialism, “your passivity [served] only to place you in the ranks of the oppressors.” “We were men at his expense,” Sartre sighed, of these “strangers,” “he makes himself a man at ours: a different man; of higher quality.”

Anyone familiar with post-colonial discourse will know the term ‘othering,’ which, in general, refers to attempts to portray minorities as strange, menacing, and defective. Sartre indulged in a different kind of othering. Third World people were mysterious, dignified, and pure, not just different from but, in a collective sense, better than their European peers. Redemption for this “fat, pale continent” could only emerge out of the fire of anti-colonial revolution. “We made history,” Sartre wrote, “and now it is being made of us.”

‘Third-worldism’ became a beacon of hope for Western leftists, who watched Marxism flourish on distant continents. It also a became a source of self-aggrandisement for Marxist revolutionaries in the Third World. They could succeed where Europeans had not. “Since World War II,” the Chinese communist Lin Biao declared in 1965:

…the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa, and Latin America has been growing vigorously… In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African, and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. The socialist countries should regard it as their internationalist duty to support the people’s revolutionary struggles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Exactly why the “proletarian revolutionary movement” had been “held back” in the U.S. and Western Europe was a question Biao evaded. Rising living standards in mixed economies? Knowledge of the catastrophic failure of Soviet communism? No. It could not be that. Such theories cast the Maoist project into doubt. Much better to scoop up their baton and run with it, and many Western leftists were delighted to see it taken.

Had they grasped that the failure of Marxism in the West was the failure of their ideas they might have been in a position to warn their Third World comrades not to follow the same path. It was not to be. The West, for them, had failed their ideas, and they sat back and watched as they were instituted in Africa, Asia, and South and Central America, marvelling at far-flung revolutionary movements even as, in many cases, they descended into chaos and oppression.

Spectators to Terror

Sartre—having soured, at least to some extent, on the Soviets— was keen to find inspiration abroad. He met Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in Cuba and was enthusiastic about their new regime. “For the first time in our lives,” his partner Simone De Beauvoir wrote, “We were witnessing happiness that had been attained through violence.” Both of them had lived through the liberation of France, which, through violence, had attained some degree of happiness. Still, the liberators had been capitalists.

In 1971, Sartre appealed to Castro to free an imprisoned poet and found himself accused of being a “bourgeois liberal gentleman” and “two-bit agent of colonialism.” He begged Castro to spare Cuba from “Stalinism” but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Perhaps he felt “furtive, nightbound and perished with cold” as the logic of his preface to The Wretched of the Earth was turned against him.

Leftist infatuation with distant communists could be more devastating. In 1975, the communists of the Khmer Rouge won the Cambodian Civil War and seized power, immediately instituting an enormous plan for agricultural collectivism. The Cambodian-American academic Sophal Ear has written of how Western Marxists were attracted by these ambitious and optimistic policies. Autarkic development, he writes:

…cast a spell on young, idealistic students who had grown increasingly critical of the ‘neo-colonial world,’ in their words. As they looked elsewhere for space to forge ahead, their eyes stopped on Cambodia, where a fresh revolution had taken place, and its charming leaders had closed the country to the rest of the world. They were in love.

Ear documents how Western academics like Laura Summers whitewashed the Khmer Rouge, twisting every warning sign of their murderous ambitions into positive features of their regime. Few Cambodians had left the country, Summers wrote, implying that its conditions were so favourable that no one wanted to leave. Unmentioned was the fact emigration was prohibited. Malcolm Caldwell, a British academic, was even more enthusiastic about the Khmer Rouge. He travelled to Cambodia to meet the objects of his admiration and was promptly and mysteriously murdered by them, joining up to three million other victims.

Perhaps the strangest case of academic attraction to Third World revolutionaries was Michel Foucault’s dalliance with Khomeini. Despite his radical libertinism, Foucault somehow esteemed this most severe of clerics, calling him an “old saint” and referring to “the love that everyone [in Iran] individually feels for him.” For Foucault, wrote Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, Khomeini’s uprising was:

…”perhaps the first great insurrection against global systems, the form of revolt that is the most modern and the most insane.” He deemed the Iranian revolution “insane,” because it transgressed the Western borders of rationality. Perhaps … such a transgression … could break down the binary logic of modernity.

The Islamic revolution was anti-communist but this was still a classic third-worldist sentiment, with its desire for radical and energetic foreigners to shake up a complacent, passive Europe. Khomeini would go on to transgress Western borders of rationality in his mass murder of political opponents and attempt to have a British novelist assassinated.

The most recent example of leftists living out their revolutionary dreams through distant causes has been Venezuela. In the later years of the Twentieth Century, the great evil of colonialism had been replaced in the left-wing imagination by its bastard offspring, neoliberalism. Leftists were desperate for something—anything—to challenge the liberal order as post-communist nations opened their markets the world and European voters stuck with social democrats.

Owen Jones, 2015

Hugo Chavez and his left-wing populist program had some admirable goals and some achievements, but his concentration of power, clientelism, and over-reliance on oil exports led to the catastrophic inflation and deprivation that we see today. One would never have guessed that this was possible from reading most left-wing commentators on the country. For them, Venezuela was the city on the hill. Chavez, Owen Jones claimed, “demonstrated that it is possible to resist the neoliberal dogma that holds sway over much of humanity.” John Pilger believed that Venezuela had become “a source of inspiration for social reform.” Jeremy Corbyn agreed that it was “an inspiration to all of us fighting back against austerity and neoliberal economics in Europe.” Since Venezuelans began queuing for toilet paper their government’s admirers have become curiously quiet on the subject.

Consistent failure has dampened the optimism of such idealistic leftists. Some of them, however, look for cultural salvation not in rebels but in migrants. Alain Badiou, the French Maoist, wrote an essay in 2017 that defended mass immigration and opposed demands for migrants to integrate and assimilate. His impulse was not liberal; like Sartre, he harboured a post-colonial desire for non-Europeans to save Europe from itself. “The mass of foreign workers and their children,” he wrote:

…testify in our old, tired country to the youth of the world, to its expanse, to its infinite variety. It is with them that a new politics to come is to be invented. Without them we will sink into nihilist consumption and policed order, and allow ourselves be dominated by little Le Pens and their cops.

“Foreigners,” he went on, will “teach us at least to become foreign to ourselves … to no longer be captives of this long occidental, white history that is finished, and of which we can no longer expect anything but sterility and war.” One can sympathise with migrants, most of whom simply wish to better their lot, for being employed as tools in this destructive, masochistic fantasy.

Accusations of sympathy with terrorists and tyrants have at times been misplaced, as Jack Staples-Butler illuminated in these pages. Around the time of the Iraq War, they were employed too easily and promiscuously by advocates of the invasion. Nonetheless, as people who demonstrably deserve such charges dominate the Labour Party and stand a decent chance of forming the next government of the United Kingdom it is essential to be aware of this irrational and obnoxious tendency in left-wing thought. The uprisings and regimes for which such figures have been energetic apologists are inspirational: inspirational, that is, in the sense of illustrating that there no depths some left-wing intellectuals and advocates will not plumb to defend their utopian anti-Western ideals.

 

Ben Sixsmith is an English writer living in Poland. Visit his website here and follow him on Twitter @BDSixsmith

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85 Comments

  1. “A consistent feature of the British socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been support for Islamists and Third World dictators.”

    You could replace Corbyn here with the US state department and it’s the same. This is a case where framing makes all the difference. What of Thatcher’s love for Pinochet? Ronald Reagan and the Mujaheddin? George HW Bush and Donald Rumsfeld’s support for Saddam Hussein? I do not see how support for dictators is, in any sense, a uniquely leftist phenomenon. It is mainstream American foreign policy. Most of the right has been bullishly in support of these policies, repeatedly, save for the paleocon and anti-interventionist wings, who are far smaller in number than the hawks.

    This article does do a good job at describing the downfalls of a worldview that is blatantly both Marxist and postmodern. The idolization of non-Western identities is postmodern. The revolutionary impetus is Marxist. Critics of postmodern neo-Marxism, who say the term has no real meaning, would have to explain why the hell Sartre, Beauvoir, Heidegger and more arrive at their bizarre conclusions.

    We know that the unspoken creed of postmodern neo-Marxism is this: anything outside of Western capitalist Enlightenment societies is *pure*. You see this with Heidegger, who also idolized the Iranian regime as a potential bastion of alternative political epistemology. It is an abyss, which you accurately point out – Maoist “third worldism” is among the most bankrupt philosophies on Earth, an empty hand, a desperate gesture for *anything* outside of the market society. It’s a bluff. But I also don’t fear it, because I know these people are holding an empty hand.

    • Jose Maria Ruiz de la Orden says

      Could it not be said that the conservative “support” of dictators was never because they supported the ideology at all, but support one evil against a worst evil. Reagan or Thatcher were never against free speech, or believed in confiscatory government. These leftist believed the dictators to be right they agreed with the ideas. That makes it a huge difference.

      • This argument is just incoherent! Am I really supposed to believe that Thatcher, Reagan, Bush, etc were just non-ideological hard pragmatists compromising with evil against their wishes? That’s a fairy tale. They had an ideology, that is opening the world to markets and crushing socialist movements. They favored corporate rights over democratic rights and rejected the sovereignty of other nations for ideological reasons. They justified mass murder, and actually *did it*, unlike Corbyn and lefties who just talk a certain way

        • Kessler says

          In that case they were morally superior to the Left, since opening world to markets and suppressing socialist movements is objectively a good thing for the people living in said countries. Just compare North and South Koreas or check out the economic prosperity of post-Pinochets Chile. Every country where socialism (note – socialism, not EU style welfare state) won, has suffered from poverty and oppression. I struggle to recall any exceptions.

          • The EU style socialism is creating enough problems; it just takes more time because it’s propped up by the power of capitalism even when suppressed by wage controls, price controls, tariffs, immigration issues, lower productivity, etc.

          • Penrod says

            I suspect you’ll have to struggle for quite some time.

            Of course we supported some terrible governments around the world, because, bad as they were, they were better than the alternatives. Simple as that. Western leftists denounced the Shah of Iran as a monster, caring not at all that by the standards of the region, and of his successors, he was a bleeding heart liberal. The Left cheered his overthrow. Franco’s Spain was far preferable to a communist Spain, and one doesn’t have to gloss over his authoritarian rule to understand that. Around the world, nearly any system which embraced private ownership of the means of production was and is superior to Marxism. By their nature, collectivist systems attract the worst power freaks, and when in power they find little to stop their oppressions both minor and major.

        • Farris says

          @Alexander J Blum

          “They justified mass murder, and actually *did it*, unlike Corbyn and lefties who just talk a certain way”

          Please explain this sentence. Which mass murders did Reagan & Thatcher condone while the Left was apologizing for Stalin, Mao, Castro, and the Khmer Rouge? Who exactly did Reagan & Thatcher mass murder?

        • No, Mr. Blum; you are supposed by Sr. Ruiz de la Orden to believe that they used a dirty, evil instrument against an overwhelming evil, as Britain used Stalin against Hitler.

          That you do not believe it is your privilege. That you do not seem to understand it suggests that you might try argue in a calmer temper.

        • ga gamba says

          Hmmm… kind of strange that Reagan abandoned Marcos, Pinochet, Stroessner, the Argentinian junta, and Chun Do Hwan. With the departure of the Cubans from Angola Reagan then because to apply pressure on South Africa which culminated in de Klerk’s release of Mandela during Bush the elder’s administration and the negotiations to end apartheid. I suppose he never heard the maxim: “He may be bastard, but he’s our bastard.”

        • Alistair says

          Ecce ad Sinistram!

          50 million dead under Communism, and Mr Alexander J Blum quibbles about the tactical alliances used to stop it. Except of course, Mr Alexander J Blum didn’t want communism stopped. He wanted communism (he prefers the term “socialism”, to show his sophistication) to win

          Oh, but Mr Alexander J Blum doesn’t have the courage to announce such convictions. He is aware, however cravenly, that the rest of the human race doesn’t share his vision and dialectical certainly. They might mistakenly, perhaps, think him the lowest form of vermin; an apologist for tyranny and murder without remorse. So Mr Alexander J Blum must dissimilate, and proceed sotto voce. He will deplore the excess of “reactionary forces” and their capitalist ideology (he himself has no ideology, of course, he is pure) whilst drawing a quiet veil over the mountain of human skulls fostered by his creed.

          This troubles him not at all. Mr Alexander J Blum is a good Socialist. He is unburdened by introspection. There is no amount of evidence that would make him turn from his faith. Good people are socialist and he is a socialist and a good person. His belief in socialism is un-falsifiable. A hundred attempts and a hundred blood-soaked failures; Mr Alexander J Blum is not disheartened! He knows, just knows, it was “not true socialism”. Why, if it had been, it would not have failed! The fault must lie with an ex-actor and grocer’s daughter, who inexplicably thwarted the progress of history.

          His face contorts in momentary hatred and rage. It is good that he is such a good person who does not project his inadequacies and lust for power. Mr Alexander J Blum wants only the very best socialist future for humanity; and one day everyone will be forced to accept his love. He finishes his post and sits back with the beatific smile of the elect; confidently awaiting the Final and True Revolution.

        • chatnoir50 says

          No need to ‘crush’ socialist movements … they crush themselves (after they have crushed the demos).

      • Andrew Marotta says

        It would seem to be true in many instances that our leaders in the US have supported the lesser of two evils, but then how do we explain our country’s tacit support for the Khmer Rouge against Viet Nam’s government? I pose this question as someone who mostly agrees with Sixsmith’s argument.

        • Martin28 says

          What? The Khmer Rouge were supported by the Viet Cong and North Vietnam. They took over right at the time the US made its final withdrawal from Vietnam.

        • peterschaeffer says

          AM, The U.S. did support the KR against Vietnam’s government for a while. At the time, we thought that Vietnam’s government was intent on waging wars of conquest and aggression throughout SE Asia. When it became clear the Vietnam had liberated Cambodia from the horrors of the KR, we turned around and supported Vietnam. Eventually, the U.S. and the USSR (Vietnam’s primary backer) worked together to restore Cambodia’s independence. By contrast, China backed the KR to the bitter end.

          • peterschaeffer says

            AM, I wrote the comments below some time ago (before the civil war in Syria).

            The best modern analogy that I know of was the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. The Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rouge in a lightning invasion that ended with the fall of Phnom Penh. I think it took about three weeks. Essentially the entire world community condemned Vietnam for its “aggression”. The rest of SE Asia was terrified that they were next (they weren’t) and the US easily rallied an anti-Vietnamese coalition (of the very willing). Vietnam was isolated and became for a time, a pariah state.

            The people of Cambodia saw it differently. For them it was liberation, at least at first. I once read an article by an educated woman enslaved by the Khmer Rouge. For her, it was either death at the hands of her fellow Cambodians or life under the Vietnamese. The choice wasn’t hard. The relationship between Cambodia and Vietnam has been contentious for many centuries. Mutual dislike/hatred abounds. However, NVA (North Vietnamese Army) troops were greeted with tears of joy when they arrived. Over time, the Vietnamese came to viewed as dislike or even hated occupiers and they eventually withdrew as part of a complex political deal that led to free elections.

            The US eventually switched sides and supported the Vietnamese invasion when it became clear that Vietnam had no territorial ambitions on Cambodia or any other state in SE Asia. Since the NVA had succeeded (in defeating the Khmer Rouge) where we had failed, the US welcomed the end of the genocidal regime that followed the fall of Phnom Penh to the communists.

            After the fall of Phnom Penh to the NVA, the Khmer Rouge did not give up quickly. They continued to fight a guerilla war against the NVA for years in the Elephant mountains of western Cambodia. Few Cambodians supported this war (even though most disliked the Vietnamese). Yet the war continued and Vietnamese soldiers continued to die (fighting communism no less) until China and Thailand cut off support for the Khmer Rouge.

            Of course, the analogies to Iraq should be clear. People will welcome foreign invasion if life is terrible enough. At least at first, many Russians welcomed the Germans (not for long). As the Iraq war started, I saw interviews with very ordinary folks in Syrian coffee houses. The Syrians were reduced to sullen rage as American forces swept north. The Iraqis sitting next to them cheered. The Syrians found Iraqi enthusiasm incomprehensible. The reason is straightforward. Every Arab government is oppressive and Syrians assumed that Iraq’s government was like theirs. While Syrians may not like Assad II, his regime is not so brutal to ordinary Syrians that they would cheer the US army. Iraq was different, very different.

            The only regime left in the world today as bad as Saddam’s is North Korea (actually much worse). Given the presumed possession of nuclear arms by the North, invasion is not likely. Given that North Koreans live in a state imposed hallucination (where the people of South Korea have less food than they do), no one knows if North Korea would really fight. On paper, the NK army is huge. It is very unclear if it would fight to the bitter end or just collapse. I doubt we will find out.

    • peterschaeffer says

      It is quite true Donald Rumsfeld met with Saddam Hussein (pictures of the meeting are readily available). However, the U.S. never supported Saddam to any significant extent. For example, the U.S. never provided Saddam with any weapons at all.

      Don’t believe me? Check the SIPRI reports on the subject. Ironically, the USSR backed Saddam to the hilt. He returned the favor by killing anyone in Iraq who supported the USSR. France also massively supported Saddam.

      Saddam got his poisons from India and Singapore. He got the equipment to make chemical weapons from Europe (notably Germany). It is all a grubby, horrible story. However, it is a story with little or no American involvement.

      • The right plays so many games with the definition of socialism – Ronald Reagan called universal healthcare “socialized medicine”. To most Republicans, social democracy *is* socialism. So when Mossadegh, for example, tried to nationalize Iranian oil, that was a blow to US interests and we acted. It is not a grand ideological battle against “the Left”. It is a game played by powerful actors to secure their interests, and it ended up backfiring so badly Iran is now an Islamic Republic.

        How are you “morally superior” to “the Left” for killing and enacting coups to stop any left-leaning movements? Against the will of their democratic polity?

        And that’s just a lie that we never gave Saddam Hussen material aid, stop rewriting history.

        • augustine says

          “It is a game played by powerful actors to secure their interests…”

          No surprise there. The question is what ideology will be employed by those in power, whether “believed in” or not, to support those activities. Violence can be expected at times no matter if the thinking is rightward or leftward. The pattern of outcomes is what matters and that is where Leftist ideas and ideals fail miserably.

        • It is the left that plays games with the word socialism for the sole purpose of avoiding, rationalizing or otherwise evading responsibility for the the failure of its every variation. The left’s post-modernism, which denies objective reality and thus actual definitions that mean something complements that habit.

          “It wasn’t real socialism!”. Well, it’s all collectivism, the doctrine that holds the individual is a powerless nothing except as part of a group. Its fundamental psychological motivations are a desire to live without the responsibility and risks of individual judgment and action combined with an insanely irrational hatred of a reality that doesn’t respond to whims (and an equal hatred of anyone and everything that proves otherwise.). Your tone illustrates all of this to a tee.

        • Socialism, like other theft, is not always the same thing exactly. It is theft by the government, but that covers a wide variety of forms. Does that confuse you, Mr. Blum?

        • ga gamba says

          So when Mossadegh, for example, tried to nationalize Iranian oil, that was a blow to US interests and we acted.

          That’s called theft.

          Your depiction of the events is a little bit more complicated than your one sentence.

          Before I begin my comment, I think several maps may aid our understanding of Iran and the region.

          Map 1: Three Persian empires, https://i(dot)imgur(dot)com/LDYGECA.jpg
          Map 2: Iran’s topography, https://i(dot)imgur(dot)com/6g47pzV.jpg
          Map 3: Iran’s ethnolinguistic diversity, https://i(dot)imgur(dot)com/6o6N9NU.jpg
          Map 4: The lands of Sunnis and Shi’as, https://i(dot)imgur(dot)com/ZpGExUh.jpg
          Map 5: Religious composition of the Middle East, https://i(dot)imgur(dot)com/IfLfxJj.jpg
          Map 6: Middle East’s present day petroleum and religion, https://i(dot)imgur(dot)com/FFK0Ip8.jpg
          Map 7: Mohammerah and its waterways (note: Khorramshahr is the city’s contemporary name), www(dot)themaparchive(dot)com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/b9d24ee63e043d9dae72d8cfeefe8ff8/A/x/Ax01233.jpg

          We need to go back a few decades to the Sheikhdom of Mohammerah. This de facto independent kingdom, an emirate once known as “Arabistan” by the Qajar Dynasty (1785 to 1925), existed at the area of what is today the border region of Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait (Maps 2 & 3) and cut off from the Iranian Plateau. Khaz’al Khan al-Kaabi (hereafter Khaz’al), as was his father and elder brother, was recognised as its ruler by the Qajar Dynasty, a Turkic tribe (Azeri) who conquered much of Persia. The people in the southwest were Arabs, and the emir of Arabistan was a relation of the Al-Sabah family, the rulers of Kuwait.

          The D’Arcy Concession granted to the D’Arcy Exploration Company by the Qajar Dynasty allowed the company to prospect this region. In return, the company agreed to pay the Shah £20,000 in cash, and equal value in company shares, and sixteen per cent of its net profits if any resources were found. By 1908 the cost of exploration had reached over half a million pounds without any viable oil fields being discovered. Having exhausted much of his own capital, D’Arcy sold most of his right to the Burmah Oil Company.

          Khaz’al was monarch of Arabistan from 1897 to 1925. During his reign he signed an oil-exploration contract with what become incorporated as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC), which later become British Petroleum and now known today as BP. Oil was discovered in 1908 and a contract was reached that provided the emir a minimum guaranteed income as well as a stake in the sales. Khaz’al was also a shareholder in APOC. Suffice it to say Khaz’al became a very wealthy emir; in his day it was claimed he was the wealthiest of all the Arabs and Iranians. He used this wealth to expand his influence and power by buying the loyalties of nearby tribes. His sheikhdom was able to establish a sense of lawfulness and stability in an area that was until his rule was one of squabbles, intrigues, piracy, raiding, slave trading, etc. He was even able to stop piracy on the Shatt al-Arab waterway from Mohammerah to the Persian Gulf (map 7). As you can see Mohammerah sits at the intersection of several major rivers, which would make the city an important trade centre and of interest to not only to the Ottomans and the Persians, but also the British and Russians. In was Khaz’al who made the place into what would become Persia’s major commercial port. Further, the Karun River, the largest river and the only navigable inland waterway in Iran, runs to Mohammerah and it was under the nominal control of the shah, who kept it closed to international navigation for fear of angering the Russians. The British could have disregarded this, but doing so would have played into Russia’s hands by forcing the shah to seek closer ties with the tsar.

          Iran’s blessing or curse, depending on how one views these things, was it was a crossroads of many civilisations (see map 3). Several times in its history it was powerful, expansionist, and imperial; the Qajar, themselves Turks, began its rule by conquering the Caucasus. And at other times it was contracting and in decay; Russia soon after seized the Caucasus from the Qajar. In the 1880s the Qajar Dynasty was in the latter state and under great pressure by both the Russians and the British as well as internal rivals. The year 1888 was to prove a pivotal for the Qajar Dynasty and the British. In exchange for British protection guarantees the Shah decreed security “to everyone his life, liberty, and property”, which imposed limits on his absolute rule that had been used to summarily execute rivals and seize the assets of the wealthy to top up his ever depleting coffer. The Shah also opened the Karun River. This was a period of concessions where the Shah granted monopolies, such as telegraphs, mills, roads, and railways, for a portion of the take which he used to finance his court and to repay loans made by Russia, Britain, and others.

          As the Qajar shahs were spending themselves into ruin and further alienating the merchants of Tehran by awarding concessions, Khaz’al was earning greater amounts as more oil production came on line and was exported in addition to the wealth gained by the expanding trade on the waterways.

          The early 20th century saw the establishment of the dynasty’s first parliament, one dominated by those living in Tehran. Looking at map 6 we can see a problem that vexed this new influential class – the oil wealth was far from the land dominated by the Farsi and other non-Arab speakers. And they wanted it.

          During these years APOC invested a considerable sum to build drilling platforms, refineries, storage tanks, port infrastructure, transportation infrastructure – the whole kit and caboodle that doesn’t magically fall from the sky when a resource is found. In 1914 the British government bought a majority stake and control of APOC for £2,200,000, approx. £250 million today adjusted for inflation, and thus the precursor of UK state-owned British Petroleum was established. APOC was to be managed as a nominally private entity with the state taking a hands off approach – the government acting as a sleeping partner. This would later cause problems when APOC’s and the government’s interests diverged throughout the ’20s and ’30s. APOC’s and the government’s interests aligned during WWII and, more importantly, post-War when a nearly bankrupt government was reliant on APOC earnings to finance itself.

          The oil company was not only a major employer and source of Iranian government revenue, but the leading source of direct foreign investment and a supplier of key services including roads, schools. and hospitals. The importance of Iranian oil to Britain was also undeniable. For example, the Abadan oil refinery was Britain’s largest single overseas asset.

          In 1921 the Shah was overthrown by a former general of his own Cossack Brigade, Reza Khan, and the Pahlavi Dynasty was established a few years later when Reza Khan became Reza Shah. One of Reza’s first acts, prior to assumption of the throne, was to go to to war with Khaz’al and bring Arabistan tightly under his rule. Reza, still as a civilian also partook in the renegotiation of the D’Arcy Concession, which was replaced by the Armitage-Smith Agreement. After Reza became Shah he then claimed he had exceeded his civilian authority in negotiating the Armitage-Smith Agreement and decided to rubbish it. Suffice it to say, Reza was often looking to extract more money from APOC.

          The company’s growth was affected by the Great Depression which cut demand for oil and, in 1931, royalties were reduced to a quarter of the previous year’s. In November 1932, the Shah himself cancelled the concession unilaterally, alleging APOC was not acting in Persia’s interests, though how APOC was to fix the worldwide Great Depression and return oil consumption to pre-crash levels was left unexplained by the Shah. Kings and their decrees, I suppose.

          One of the Shah’s complaints was the 16% profit was limited to oil extracted from Iran. After World War I APOC expanded outside Iran’s borders, for example into Iraq. The Shah wanted his takings to be derived from worldwide revenue.

          In 1933 a new 60-year agreement was reached, due in part to the intervention of the League of Nations responding to the British complaint. APOC’s concession area was reduced by 80%, a minimum annual payment of £750,000 (approx. £50m today) was provided, and royalties were to be calculated on physical volume of oil extracted in Iran rather than profit. Whilst this protected Iran from the risk in oil’s price fall, it also failed to provide Iran increased revenue in the case of oil’s price increase. The company was to recruit its technical and commercial staff from Iranian nationals to the extent that it could find Iranians who had the required competence and experience. The Iranian government’s revenues from oil sold inside and outside the country increased from an average of 12.3 US cents a barrel during 1913-1932 to an average of 21.5 cents in the period from 1933 to June 1951 – an increase of 75%. The agreement included a clause preventing any alteration unless discussions were instigated by the company, theoretically blocking any demands or action from the Iranian government for the 60-year duration. Ratified by the legislature and signed by the Shah,the agreement saw APOC renamed to Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) in accordance with the Shah’s wishes.

          During WWII the amount of royalties received from the company re-emerged as a matter of national concern, and the company’s existence, operations, and activities became a focal point for national grievances. AIOC a pawn in the constitutional struggle between the Shah and his opposition. The Shah had earlier weakened his position by cozying up to the Nazis, due in part to his ambitions to extend Iran’s power into the Gulf thereby threatening the rulers of Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain, so Britain and the Soviets agreed to support his abdication in favour of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to ensure the safety of Russian oil and material supplies transited through Iran. Domestically, the 1940s were a time of ever shifting political alliances and intrigues, foment of agitation, and even assassination. One notices the communist Tuda (Tudeh) Party’s double dealing as it was campaigning to end AIOC’s concession it supported one for the Soviets in northern Iran. Again, and in violation of the 1933 agreement, the Iranians were demanding renegotiation of the concession agreement to extract more money and this led to the Supplemental Agreement of 1947, which went unratified.

          Reviewing the contracts reached between the Iranians and the British, one can’t help but reach the conclusion the Iranians were poor negotiators who looked to the past problems to make political arguments and failed to forecast future developments of the market. Said the World Bank’s Hector Prud’homme, who was an arbitrator between the two parties in the 1950s: “Our difficulty was that we were dealing with political men and not businessmen.” The tension between political gains and economic ones proved irreconcilable. After unilateral nationalisation in 1951, again in violation of the 1933 agreement, the withdrawal of British workers, and the severing of diplomatic relations by Iran in ’52, the Iranians were left on their own to run AIOC. They ran it into the ground because the British embargo and its threat of legal action against shipping companies and refineries contracting with the Iranians. Mosaddeq hadn’t planned on that response and he had no way to counter it. Though controlling the domestic facilities, the Iranians failed to realise the principal market was overseas which required the control of the distribution, refining, and sales channels, all of which were beyond their grabby hands. In denying these to Iran, Britain were supported by its allies, chiefly the USA amongst many others.

          Mosaddeq was incompetent. Though desiring to increase Iran’s takings and improve opportunities for workers, the decrease in oil production – plummeting from 650,000 barrels per day in 1951 to only 20,000 bpd in 1952 – reduced Iran’s revenue and labour was left without work and incomes. Mosaddeq’s popularity soon diminished and his support dwindled, both in government and in the streets. His political ambitions were no substitutes for the needed foreign exchange that the flow of oil to international markets used to generate. Failing to understand the operation and dynamics of the market, Mosaddeq and his supporters overplayed their hand. Mosaddeq’s advisers had convinced him that given its size and importance, the Iranian crude oil and petroleum products were irreplaceable in the international markets. Consequently, the loss of such a volume of oil would bring the Western economies to their knees, forcing them to accept the Iranian terms, and bring about the success of the nationalisation. They could have not been more wrong; they were clearly not sufficiently informed about the development of large-scale crude oil production capacities in the neighboring countries such as Kuwait.

          Once his domestic support largely evaporated because he was unable to deliver on his promise of increased national prosperity, he was left vulnerable to rivals who wanted to re-establish relations with Britain, return Iranian oil to the world market, resume receiving revenues to fund the government, and recover the economy. Saying the CIA and MI6 overthrew Mosaddeq is an oversimplification. He was overthrown because his own ambition and misguided actions made him vulnerable to domestic actors. The CIA and MI6 couldn’t orchestrate against him had he still retained the support of the people, the Tehran merchants, the legislators, and the military. Mosaddeq made nationalisation his hill to die on, on died on it he did.

          Under the new post-Mosaddeq agreement of 1954 Iran shared the profits from the oil production with the new consortium members on a 50-50 basis. Further, Iran opened up much of the country to exploration by several oil companies of many nations, expanding it beyond the interest of AIOC, now called British Petroleum, and the Soviets. This led to phenomenal growth in investment, production, and revenue for both the government and the oil companies.

          Advocates of nationalisation of natural resources and their extractive businesses possess a bizarre idea that these owners are somehow like a lottery winner who found their ticket serendipitously and undeservedly. It denies significant risk was taken and investments made to create the industry that now they want to steal in the name of the people. Further, these advocates disregard contracts and the rule of law; we often find the expropriating governments later abusing the rights of the people in their name.

          There are lessons to be learnt about nationalising transnational businesses, in particular ones owned in whole or in part by other governments. You might just find you’ve run afoul of powers who will respond with more just angry words to protect their or their citizens’ interests. Tread carefully.

          • Prince of Slugs says

            As always, your comments are top notch. Keep chugging on gamba!

        • Mainline FL says

          Really Harm? The country that helped save Europe and several parts of S. Asia committed more atrocities than Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro, Hugo/Maduro and Ortega? I find most of the world’s atrocities after WWII can be directly related to European post-colonial vacuums, communist expansion, UN indecision, and idealistic liberal guilt.

    • Melvin Backstrom says

      There are numerous reasons to criticize Heidegger, most notably his support if Nazism. But since he died in 1976, three years before the Iranian Revolution, idolizing the Iranian Islamic regime is definitely not one of them.

    • Your fearlessness is singular. Stalin held an empty hand, too; as also did Mao. They were no less fearsome for that. Tens of millions died; hundreds of millions of lives were blighted. That’s real socialism. Do you suppose yourself safe, Mr. Blum?

    • The left’s love of dictators and murderers such as Guevara is ideological, they derive little monetary gain or commercial advantage from their admiration for those varmints. The US in general doesnt “admire” dictators, it simply uses them to achieve geopolitical advantages or secure commercial gains. There’s a big difference.

    • Craig Hubbard says

      Heidegger died in 1976. Wasn’t this before the current Iranian regime took power?

  2. leftists correctly opposed the hubristic interventionist recklessness that led to the horrors of Iraq.. like Tony Blair
    “Since Venezuelans began queuing for toilet paper their government’s admirers have become curiously quiet on the subject.” ,, lines began in 2005. By then the people were in line for milk, poultry, flour while Chavez according to you was getting “some achievements”

    • Dear Mr. l, whoever, trying not to be unduly hardline, conceded that Chavez was “getting ‘some achievements'” was very badly mistaken, and wherever he is I am sure he is now very, very sorry. Feel better now?

  3. Dennis Mendelson says

    The Capitalism/Communism dichotomy is for ill-informed dupes to debate. Informed, modern economic debate is about the promotion of productivity vs the interests of rent-seekers. UK Labour are proposing improvements in this regard based on awareness of actual economic reality rather than ideology. Here’s a talk from a UK economics professor that explains the fundamentals well (hint: it’s about the role of banks in the economy):

    https://youtu.be/N-FDdHj7rPk

      • Alistair says

        Dear Mr Mendleson,

        Don’t you think it hilarious when people think they are being Terribly Clever and Educated? I know I do. I’m sure no one here has any graduate level of education in economics at all and will value your links on “actual economic reality” appropriately. Perhaps you would be kind enough to summarise the sins of Fiat Currency for those of us dupes who haven’t read Hayek and von Mises? I can’t wait to find out how UK productivity will be boosted by Yet Another Industrial Strategy and “investment” with favoured clientele. Its worked so well ever time before.

        Since we are on the subject of rent-seeking and I’m sure you’re absolutely top-notch on Public Choice economics; what is your take on the electoral coalition of the UK labour party? You know – the vast bribery scheme of print-and-tax for the grateful socialist voters?

    • Conan the Agrarian says

      “The Capitalism/Communism dichotomy is for ill-informed dupes to debate. Informed, modern economic debate is about the promotion of productivity vs the interests of rent-seekers. UK Labour are proposing improvements in this regard based on awareness of actual economic reality rather than ideology…”

      I think some less intelligent and sophisticated than you and I might misconstrue what you have penned here to be condescending and narcissistic.

      I’m warning you so that so that you don’t feel bad about yourself should one of the dupes lash out. They can be really unkind sometimes.

    • It is to laugh, Mr. Mendelson. One doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by pointing to the obvious. Have a pleasant day.

  4. “A consistent feature of the British socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been support for Islamists and Third World dictators.”

    This entire article proceeds without once registering the obvious fact of ongoing right-wing support for Islamists and Third World dictators. Right-wing politicians have supported Islamist ‘rebels’ throughout the Middle East, as well as overlooking the crimes of the Gulf monarchies. Is this also ‘anti-Western’?

    • Martin28 says

      From the left or the right, support for Islamists has looked like bad, and often dishonest, policy to me. From the right, it has not been motivated by anti-Western sentiments. The most egregious examples of left-wing support for evil are the infatuation with communist regimes like the Khmer Rouge. They have a lot to answer for there, as the Khmer Rouge carried out the swiftest and most efficient murder of the most people—as a percentage of the population—in recorded history.

        • It’s not whataboutism when, for each example of a Western leftist politician hugging a dictator there is a similar one of a conservative politician hugging one (sometimes the same one). The points being that the author ignores that salient fact, and so is themselves guilty of whataboutism, albeit preemptively, while my own point, that what unites these politicians, i.e. they are Western, is a more suitable frame for approaching the question. But then the issue of imperialism would have to be tackled head on.

    • Jose Maria Ruiz de la Orden says

      No because one supports the ideas the other supports keep them fighting over there and not here attitude.

    • Let me help you out, your royal highness. Arguably the Islamists themselves are “right wing,” if you define “right wing” the right way.

      Nevertheless the Labor Party is that of lovers of despots and terrorists and the mortal enemies of your countries; whereas all parties to their right retain some distaste for them.

      • Deafening Tone says

        And which way is the “right way” to define “right wing,” o’ definitional God?

  5. Insufficiently Sensitive says

    his concentration of power, clientelism, and over-reliance on oil exports led to the catastrophic inflation and deprivation that we see today.

    Omitted from that list is that Hugo Chavez, after getting control of Petróleos de Venezuela, immediately larded up its employee roster with his cronies, who drew high salaries but knew zip about oil production. Its competent staff went elsewhere, and oil production declined disastrously.

    Solzhenitsyn gives the same story of the public works of Russian cities after the revolution. Loyal Communists replaced engineers, and the waterworks went to pot. Isn’t ideology a lovely thing?

  6. Anyone who has ever supported abortion has a corresponding apologetic for that murder. It’s not like this is just a liberal thing. Libertarians and economic conservatives have been pushing murder right along with the liberals. This is not really news.

      • Dear Mr. of Kirkland, those who believe it to be murder when a corpus kills a fetus (if you insist on Latin names for the bodies) do indeed believe that the latter is a person with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In that view miscarriages are accidental deaths: nobody is culpable: that is what is meant by “accidental.”

        This view regards it as murder whether the person who kills the unborn child (or corpus who kills the fetus) is the mother, the mother’s servant, or another person.

      • Yes, children do have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The fact that this has to be explained to you shows just how far you have fallen into the liberal abyss.

        We hung the Nazis by the neck until they were dead in part because they legalized abortion. In 1945, legal abortion was explicitly considered a crime against humanity. The first nation to legalize it was the USSR under Lenin, then the socialist government of Mexico under the PRI legalized it for rape, The Polish dictator Piludski legalized it in Poland, and the Nazis famously legalized it for eugenics.

        Legalizing the killing of children has always been a leading indicator of massive government corruption, generally involving socialism or similar dictatorship.

        • Alex Russell says

          I can find no evidence that “We hung the Nazis by the neck until they were dead in part because they legalized abortion.”

          You are assuming a fetus is a child. I do not believe this is true because for me the definition of a human is not a thing with human DNA, but a person with a brain capable of thoughts and feelings.

          I know for sure a full grown woman is a person, and I believe woman should have more rights than a barely formed clump of cells.

      • Deafening Tone says

        In the same way that someone dying of alzheimer’s is not an act of murder, neither is a miscarriage. You aren’t even trying.

      • Dave Bowman says

        “Are miscarriages manslaughter?”

        No, cretin. Miscarriage is a blame-free accident of nature. You have just publicly admitted by your gross ignorance that you don’t understand the moral difference between accident and murder. That means you have no intellectual right to comment here at all. Please go away and get a basic education in ethics, and get back to us.

  7. The author is grappling with the same dilemma that has always preoccupied the foreign policy of nations that claim the Enlightenment. Namely, how to engage with those that are illiberal.

    As others here pointed out, this isn’t a problem unique to the left, or right for that matter. China and the Saudi Kingdom are some of the most illiberal and repressive regimes in the world, yet no one anywhere is proposing to disengage from them.

    Why? Because they are just too important, and powerful. They can’t be shunned or ignored, they can’t be bullied or browbeaten.

    Even in the best scenario, the policy of liberal nations towards the illiberal ones will be a complex mixture of realpolitik, pragmatism and idealism.

  8. E. Olson says

    If the developing/Communist world is so pure, courageous, and principled, why don’t/didn’t masses of people from the weak, pampered, liberal, capitalist West emigrate there – particularly the Sartres, Foucaults, Pilgers, Badious, Summers, Corbyns, etc. that used their fame and power to promote these wondrous places. Similarly, why do/did so many of the pure, courageous, and principled citizens of developing/Communist nations want to leave their home paradise for the corrupt, weak, unfair West? A similar lack of Leftist self-interest seems to be present in the US, where dozens of well-known celebrities said they wouldn’t stand to live under the jurisdiction of a Fascist/Racist/Anti-Semite/Homophobe Donald Trump presidency/dictatorship, and promised to move from the US if he was elected, and yet all of them are still in the US.

    • Indeed. It’s clear which way people choose to go if not coerced to stay. You pick: East or West Germany. North or South Korea. North or South Vietnam. Which side of Hispaniola?
      Most “western failures” these days are because of pressure for authoritarianism, demand for “government services,” price/wage controls, mandated benefits instead of wages, etc.

    • Rogerson says

      Are you a Sunni? Islam, basically, is Islam. That is the point. Same book, same leader, same ideas.

    • ga gamba says

      I have some problems with the conclusion. “We need to return to positive liberty, to progressivism, but this time without the terror.” This time we’ll get it right. The problem was that negative liberty, when used as an activist movement, morphed into positive liberty, which is unsurprising given Blair was a Third Way adherent, a movement that sought to blend the best of both. Further, the presenter asserts negative liberty societies are ones without purpose, but fails to back this up. If a sense of purpose has to be be found and expressed through collectivisation and mass movements by way of indoctrination and struggle sessions, count me out.

      I don’t need government to give me a purpose. I’m very content to allow each person to have the negative liberty to find that for him/herself, be it from a workaholic yuppie entrepreneur to a teepee dwelling sage huffing shaman.

      It’s fine to cite the example of Russia’s shock therapy gone wrong, but let’s not ignore the much more successful transition, though not without its bumps, from communism to capitalism of Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland, none of which had West Germany’s generous hand outs given to the East. Even much of the former Yugoslavia is doing better today. By and large, they’re reorientated their attention and effort to the EU and beyond.

      • augustine says

        Your positive and negative liberty reference reminded me of the old quip about the Swiss arrangement: By law these things are prohibited. Everything else is mandatory.

      • Alistair says

        The Baltic states also did well with “shock therapy”, and Mongolia, though nobody noticed.

  9. There are two kinds of smart people: practical thinkers and idealistic dreamers. Both kinds want to be important, and Western history is all about the struggle between them for importance. Idealistic dreamers were on top until the industrial revolution, and leftism is their strategy to reclaim dominance. Mass immigration is their latest tactic to bring down the practical thinkers. It might work, but if it does Western leftists will be surprised to learn that in the new world order the best they can hope for is confinement in shabby universities.

    • This dichotomy requires a key consideration of proportionality. As a proportion of all smart people, a society needs one or two idealistic dreamer types for every ten practical thinkers. A Western style country needs input and participation from dreamers, but must fight against their dominance in culture and politics. This battle of resistance is more difficult than the attack strategy of the dreamer Left.

  10. Please leave our western nations to suffer the ills of capitalism, liberty, religious tolerance and equal protection.
    Those who prefer non-western values have a lot of choices where they can be happier and should go there; please don’t ruin our culture to impose a foreign one. Capitalism and democracy suffer enough authoritarianism, nationalism, and economic controls.

  11. AC Harper says

    Jordan Peterson has been musing about the differences between rightwing and leftwing politics. In his YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtGEGJgZKsk he says (at the very end, my transcription):

    “I’ve also spent some more time thinking about the proper place of the right and the left wing – the right wing basically serves as an advocate for hierarchy, and the left wing serves as a critic of hierarchy. The right says well we need hierarchies they’re often hierarchies of competence, they’re necessary to organize people and society, and they’re necessary to get things done. All of which is true. And the left says yes but hierarchies dispossess, and you have to pay attention to the widows and the orphans. Which is also true. And so then the political discussion is about how to ensure that hierarchies are maintained and are functional, but also have sufficient mercy within them to take care of the people who for one reason or another are struggling to find their place even in a hierarchy of competence.”

    Perhaps explaining how Leftwingers are primarily critics of the established order – and welcome freedom fighters/terrorists and alternate government styles as validation for their criticism? Perhaps also explaining why a government arising from criticism alone rapidly descends into tyranny and chaos?

    • Bernard Hill says

      …excellent conclusion, with parallels elsewhere in natural phenomena.

    • Alistair says

      One has to disagree with Peterson here. The modern Left doesn’t criticise hierarchy. It just wants to replace any it finds with one more of its own liking. Marxist above Trans above muslims above atheists above homosexual above green above disabled above African above women above South Asian above East Asia above urban above men above whites above christians above right-wingers. You will never find a better developed or more complete hierarchy than that which governs the Left!

      A hierarchy in which a left-wing priesthood in eternal government get to decide what happens to the rest of us.

      The modern discourse of the left is entirely about power (which they alone are pure enough to wield, of course). They have been completely corrupted by the lust for power that they purport to critique.

      • AC Harper says

        An interesting addition to the discussion… but I wonder if the Leftish hierarchy is one of values or identities rather than social roles? And then once they get into power they find that identity politics primes them for disrupting role hierarchies and replacing them with identity hierarchies means that the broader society starts falling apart.

        It’s one thing to hate the capitalists, bankers, busnesses and the rich but who is going to keep the economy going? Especially when you have cadres of the disadvantaged in their divisive bunkers all competing for the greatest victimhood status and a bigger slice of everybody else’s money.

        It has been said that leftism currently views the world solely as power relationships between the oppressors and the oppressed – but is this an effective way of keeping the lights on and food on the table?

      • Peter the Grape says

        I would suggest you are on the right track, but perhaps we need to separate pure hierarchy from “enforcement of order”, which is closer to the modus of the Left (forgive the lazy, general term).

        That is, hierarchy is really a human efficiency mechanism, a (ideally) universally agreed upon order for group well being, to avoid horribly wasteful infighting over goods, mates, and status. Hierarchy is necessary because human beings suck and will infight themselves to group extinction.

        Hierarchy aims for members to refrain from disruption out of concern for personal AND group survival, with the minimum of coercive enforcement on those who feel the need to subvert the common good for their personal advancement. It’s a way for a group of inherently unequal individuals to self-regulate.

        The Left seems to promote the canard that hierarchies are synonymous with top-down enforcement, elite dominance, and unfairness. I’d argue they are right at times, but it’s a spectrum: the less efficient and effective a hierarchy becomes, the more enforcement of order you get, in a vicious circle. Sometimes, hierarchies become corrupt and dependent on force. But they don’t have to be:

        ^
        ^
        | e *
        | n *
        | f *
        | o *
        | r *
        | c *
        | e *
        | m *
        | e *
        | n *
        | t *
        |———————————————————–>>
        hierarchical effectiveness

        Now the Left! They love them some enforcement all day long. Their enforcement of order is, paradoxically, anti-hierarchy. The order they sell is some formulation of militant egalitarianism. The Left’s whole pitch is, “We will use coercion to bust the hierarchy that has worked poorly for some of you. Just give us power.” They have to keep costly enforcement going all the time (“the never-ending revolution”), because people naturally sort themselves into hierarchies if left to their own devices.

        I see the Left doing it everywhere now. They deliberately and methodically confound hierarchies to render them meaningless. They force transgender mixing in sports, so women are weightlifting and wrestling against biological men, ruining the hierarchy of female athleticism. They insist on race in school admissions and hiring, ruining the academic and competence hierarchy. They insist only certain identity actors can play parts, subverting the hierarchy of acting talent. Trans women compete in pageants, subverting the hierarchy of female reproductive desirableness. The list is endless.

        Any time someone tries to set up a clear, semi-objective hierarchy of any sort, a Leftist group sues to disrupt it, claiming intolerable and unconstitutional hurt feelings.

        The Left’s enthusiasm for enforcement of the egalitarian order has given rise to a HUGE and largely untalked about enforcement matrix. The critical theory/social “science”/social justice departments in universities function as police academies turning out social justice officers. Leftists learn to recognize and condemn hierarchies, then deploy hazy jargon and threats to confuse and overwhelm people: “Oppressionism … paradigms of whiteness … anti-colonialistivity inclusivityizingness … hetero-patriarchal privilege … pronoun violence … erasure from public space ….”

        After the unis come the “organizations” such as the ACLU and SPLC. They finance social justice lawyers, who ferret out anybody partaking of hierarchy and punish them for daring to sort people: “BOY Scouts? A merit based hierarchy of young males where they learn hierarchy can be healthy and useful? Oh HELL no! Bend over and prepare yourself for unlubricated social justice. By the time we are done, the Supreme Court will order that 50-year-old homeless pedophiles have the right to join your so-called ‘boy scouts’.”

        I would suggest identity is not a form of hierarchy. It is an anti-hierarchy weapon, a way to exempt oneself from hierarchy should anybody be so foolish as to attempt to inflict it. When someone starts most sentences with, “‘Speaking as a trans woman of color …” that’s a warning: “Just because you happen to have a PhD in the subject we are discussing, don’t think you can assume a hierarchy in which your opinion is more valuable than mine … Just because you are a woman who can reproduce and keep the species from extinction, don’t assume a hierarchy in which you are more of a woman than I am …”

        Broadly speaking, we have allowed the Left to make even the SUGGESTION of most hierarchies illegal in the US. The cockeyed logic has been that since its unconscionable and a violation of their human rights for anybody to be low in the hierarchy, we can’t have any hierarchy at all.

        It’s very woke … and socially expensive, and confusing, and paralyzing. We spend more and more effort and money trying to figure out some way to organize and sort people that doesn’t get one sued, fired, and socially stigmatized.

        Unfortunately, a likely conclusion to the Left’s anti-hierarchy crusade is that those who recognize the necessity of hierarchy will be forced into high-enforcement hierarchy … authoritarianism.

    • In addition to the struggle for equilibrium within the political-cultural hierarchies (left-right), we are simultaneously seeking equilibrium in the sphere of everyday humanity and spirit as well. The demands this interplay makes on us ensures that no system or condition is ever settled for long.

    • When the “right wing” in question is Christian, they care for the widows and orphans in addition to respecting the naturalness and need for hierarchies. The idea that “the Right” doesn’t care about the poor is rooted in serious ignorance of Western history. It was the Church that came up with hospitals, soup kitchens, orphanages, etc.

  12. re Denis Mendelson’s above reference to a talk about how ‘Big Banks are Bad’
    https://youtu.be/N-FDdHj7rPk

    There are problems with local government of all sorts of things – ie, the small is always beautiful perspective. The worst is what is really a form of insider trading. For example, I’ll support this project that will benefit you if you block this other one that might be competition for me. Its the way all city councils work. Having the banks work on the basis of personal local favour exchange seems a step back, not forward. Sure some small businesses have trouble getting loans. The most recent one I know about is refusal to lend to someone whose previous business had been sold up at a loss (big bank). Possibly a credit union might have approved the loan, but would this decision have been sensible?

    Do Credit Unions have share holders? If so, do members invest their pensions in them? If not, they still need the big banks for important things.

  13. Rogerson says

    I think it’s the great irony that lefties are now very conservative. They want the old class war structure because it justifies their existence, and they don’t want to question the ideological backwardness of Islam regarding freedom of religious choice, freedom of criticism, and equality of women. Those matters sit in the box marked “cultural relativity” which they never open.

    • You may be right, Rogerson; but I can’t help wonder the degree to which that strikes you as bad because you have internalised the assumption that whatever is conservative is bad.

      I think it depends what you conserve. Conserving class war certainly seems bad. Conserving liberty seems good. Conserving hatred is bad. Conserving love is good.

      People who are not conservative seem very sure that people who are, are trying to conserve bad things, or bad things principally. Of some people they are surely right; but of others they are just as surely wrong.

  14. “[A]s people who demonstrably deserve such charges [of sympathy with terrorists and tyrants] dominate the Labour Party and stand a decent chance of forming the next government of the United Kingdom it is essential to be aware of this irrational and obnoxious tendency in left-wing thought.”

    In what way, Mr. Sixsmith, is it irrational? “Irrational” suggests means not rationally related to ends. That’s wrong. Without evidence it assumes benign ends.

    Also, “obnoxious” is a little soft. The correct word is “evil.”

  15. Settembrini says

    Aside from being a fraud and a hypocrite, what a loathsome piece of excrement Jean-Paul Sartre was…

    • Settembrini says

      But I will say this for him: he was repulsive all the way around. An actual living example of how grotesque ugliness on the outside really can be a reflection of grotesque ugliness on the inside.

  16. It is strange the way so many lefties end up as de facto apologists for ruling classes.

    You would expect them to oppose all ruling classes, but instead they end up supporting third world ruling classes, who are pretty much by definition the worst of the lot.

  17. martti_s says

    There has been too little talk about the dickheadedness of the Western elite intelligentsia.
    From Sartre to Chomsky, they talk about their beautiful ideals while never having to care about their consequences. Human lives don’t matter.
    Remember Kissinger and Yasser Arafat scoring Nobel Peace prices!
    Warlords.
    Elites are intentionally blind.

  18. “Hugo Chavez and his left-wing populist program had some admirable goals and some achievements”

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhahahahahahaha.

  19. Good article with some very valid points. As a progressive Canadian, it is clear to me that many white lefties sympathize with all “other” cultures, colours and faiths, to the complete exclusion of their own. It’s the curse of “othering”! While, the conservative movement speaks of blocking all immigration, embraces most Christians, especially Caucasians and has consistently conspired to mock the left while they steamroll the progressive movement, almost world wide through their superior campaign efforts and skills.

    Despite the conservative movements challenges, they always seem to get it together during elections and especially in the US. In the UK these days, the left and Corbyn are mired in the mud of those anti Semitic accusations coming from the Blairites and conservatives, which he struggles under still, not being able to discipline his own accusing MPs. Its pitiful really, when progressives can’t understand how to defend their own political moral values and allow themselves to be taken down by the very conservatives who are proud of their own bigotry. Brilliant tactics!

    • It isn’t bigotry to want a sane degree of cultural homogeneity. Without it, societies go from high trust to low trust. Civic involvement decreases, voluntarism goes down, and people hole-up. A whole slew of studies indicates this (see https://tinyurl.com/y8f7drhw).

      The West’s favoring Christian refugees over Muslim immigrants makes sense on a number of levels, as does taking into account the ability of immigrant populations to integrate with and contribute to rather than merely take from host populations. It’s also worth considering whether the newcomers would tend to be law-abiding, which their illegally crossing borders indicates they wouldn’t. None of those considerations amount to “bigotry.”

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