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The Neoconservative Persuasion and Foreign Policy

A lengthy and fascinating interview with Joshua Muravchik is in the latest edition of Democratiya. Muravchik talks about his personal journey from the socialist left to neo-conservatism and then goes on to look at Iraq and Islamist terror and the … Read More

By / December 4, 2007

A lengthy and fascinating interview with Joshua Muravchik is in the latest edition of Democratiya. Muravchik talks about his personal journey from the socialist left to neo-conservatism and then goes on to look at Iraq and Islamist terror and the neo-con responses.

I've been contemplating socialism and the left in some of my posts here and so this passage from Muravchik was interesting:

I kept wrestling with the central mystery of socialism. How could something that desired to make things better have instead made things so much worse? Was it that socialists were bad people? From my own experience I am still convinced that most people who embraced the idea of socialism did so from a humane feeling – they wanted the world to be kinder and gentler. Yet socialism's most important results were quite the opposite. Of course, social democrats did things to humanise society when they were in government, but the overall record of socialism, when you add up both sides of the ledger, is quite appalling. 

I concluded that the central problem is asking politics to do something it can't do - to provide the 'leap' that Marx wrote about. This ambition departs entirely from the realities of human existence, which is imperfect and tragic. Life may not be nasty and brutish but it is short and it will always have its share of sadness and disappointment. Religion offers answers to both the shortness of life and the disappointments it contains – whether or not you accept the truth of any particular religion or religion per se. Politics can't do that. If you understand that, you feel a certain constraint on what you seek to achieve in politics, which at the most can offer amelioration. But the socialist thinks that through politics you can transform human life itself. Michael Harrington – a leader of mine back then whom I admired – once wrote that socialism would create 'an utterly new society in which some of the fundamental limitations of human existence have been transcended.' [5] But no political system can do that. Worse, once you say it can you have a logically sound utilitarian argument for killing some people in order to get there. If those people are standing in the way of the new, higher, happier level of human existence, well…

 

By the way, if you are not familiar with Democratiya - a free-to-read, online journal of what could loosely be called 'Eustonite Internationalists' then take a look through their latest edition – including a speech from Tony Blair – and also their archive which is full of interesting and serious material.

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