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What’s Left?

Shall I go out on a limb and say that Nick Cohen's What's Left?, which I haven't read yet because it hasn't been published in the states yet, might be the most important polemic you'll come by this year? Finally, … Read More

By / January 30, 2007

Shall I go out on a limb and say that Nick Cohen's What's Left?, which I haven't read yet because it hasn't been published in the states yet, might be the most important polemic you'll come by this year?

Finally, one of the drafters of the Euston Manifesto and a social democrat, who stayed angry but salubrious after 9/11, puts all his thoughts between two hard covers and his own political allegiance between a rock and a hard place.

Cohen's brief is simple: The left has abandoned its principles for fashionable anti-Americanism and anti-Ukanianism. Radicals with hoary Marxist and socialist credentials care little for the plight of Muslims (Bosnia? Kosovo?) but everything for the plight of Tony Blair and George W. Bush.

Their rancid and inverted ideology does not, to be fair, encompass all of the anti-war movement, but it does delimit the motives of old 'activist' hands who know better about the Baath Party and its criminal history, yet find higher favor with them than with any policy that could ever emerge from 10 Downing St. or 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Read these paragraphs and try to keep your powder dry:

On 15 February 2003 , about a million liberal-minded people marched through London to oppose the overthrow of a fascist regime. It was the biggest protest in British history, but it was dwarfed by the march to oppose the overthrow of a fascist regime in Mussolini's old capital of Rome, where about three million Italians joined what the Guinness Book of Records said was the largest anti-war rally ever. In Madrid, about 650,000 marched to oppose the overthrow of a fascist regime in the biggest demonstration in Spain since the death of General Franco in 1975. In Berlin, the call to oppose the overthrow of a fascist regime brought demonstrators from 300 German towns and cities, some of them old enough to remember when Adolf Hitler ruled from the Reich Chancellery. In Greece, where the previous generation had overthrown a military junta, the police had to fire tear gas at leftists who were so angry at the prospect of a fascist regime being overthrown that they armed themselves with petrol bombs.

The French protests against the overthrow of a fascist regime went off without trouble. Between 100,000 and 200,000 French demonstrators stayed peaceful as they rallied in the Place de la Bastille, where in 1789 Parisian revolutionaries had stormed the dungeons of Louis XVI in the name of the universal rights of man.

In Ireland, Sinn Fein was in charge of the protests and produced the most remarkable spectacle of a remarkable day: a peace movement led by the IRA. Only in the newly liberated countries of the Soviet bloc were the demonstrations small and anti-war sentiment muted.

The protests against the overthrow of a fascist regime weren't just a European phenomenon. From Calgary to Buenos Aires, the left of the Americas marched. In Cape Town and Durban, politicians from the African National Congress, who had once appealed for international solidarity against South Africa's apartheid regime, led the opposition to the overthrow of a fascist regime. On a memorable day, American scientists at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica produced another entry for the record books. Historians will tell how the continent's first political demonstration was a protest against the overthrow of a fascist regime.

Don't you know your left from your right? Part II | Review | The Observer

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