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May 15, 2009

A pair of heresies

Filed under: Philosophy,War — rmangum @ 9:05 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Thomas Woods doubts whether, outside of a few fringe figures, there is any genuine anti-war Left at all, and TGGP disses Rothbard’s and Keynes’s  (and also, though he is not mentioned, Hayek’s) view of the importance of intellectuals in the spread of ideas in favor of (an evolutionary update on) Marx’s.

I think both are partially right, but mostly wrong, though at the moment I don’t have the time for analysis.

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13 Comments »

  1. Sure there are genuine anti-war lefties. Every single leftie.
    (not talking about Democrats, who are as close to the Left as George Bush is to reading)

    Comment by Francois Tremblay — May 15, 2009 @ 10:15 pm | Reply

    • This is true only if you make being anti-war your sole criteria for being left-wing, which you are certainly free to do, but note that it is an idiosyncratic definition, and would make Woods a lefty too, which he might take issue with.

      Comment by rmangum — May 16, 2009 @ 6:22 am | Reply

      • No, I just mean that I haven’t yet met a left-wing person who was not against war.

        Comment by Francois Tremblay — May 16, 2009 @ 7:01 am

  2. I’ve promoted the pacifist merits of abject surrender elsewhere. Both paleocons and radicals from the 60s thought I was nuts. I agree with David Friedman that “Revolution IS the hell of it” and “The saying ‘if you want peace work for justice’ is pro-war”.

    Francois, I think you may be edging close to a “No true Scotsman”.

    Comment by teageegeepea — May 15, 2009 @ 10:48 pm | Reply

    • Very true. In such discussions about the general political spectrum, we have to use the common understanding of “the left” as including not only a whole variety of radicals from communists to progressive Green party-types to anarchists and so on, but the Democratic party and garden-variety liberals as well. Exclude Democrats from the Left and you have to exclude neocons from the Right (however awkwardly they fit with paleocons and right-libertarians and Kirkian traditionalists), and how much sense does that make?

      Certainly some of the biggest warmongers of the modern age have been left wing, but of course there are genuinely anti-war left-wing groups and movements. Some have been specifically so, such as the New Left, and other groups have been split over war, such as the progressives over WWI. But weren’t libertarians divided over Iraq, prompting much of the “No true Scotsman”-style arguments (though there is some sense in this where libertarians are concerned, insofar as we understand libertarianism as being defined by the non-aggression principle)? As I read it, if we apply Woods’ complaints about the Left to the other side, there is no genuinely anti-war Right, either, and people like Woods are lonely voices crying in the wilderness.

      Comment by rmangum — May 16, 2009 @ 6:10 am | Reply

    • How am I doing a No True Scotsman? I have a pretty specific demarcation of who is left-wing and who isn’t.

      Comment by Francois Tremblay — May 16, 2009 @ 7:01 am | Reply

      • Well, Communists used to justify Soviet aggressions on a regular basis, and even if you exclude rank-and-file democrats there are plenty of progressives and socialists who believe in continual global intervention under “humanitarian” and “democratic” auspices by either the U.S. or (preferably) the U.N. These may be excluded by your “specific demarcation” but once you do that you’re going to end up with a gaping excluded middle. Better to admit that there is a pro-war Left and anti-war Left, just as there is a pro-war Right and an anti-war Right; a libertarian Left and an authoritarian Left, a libertarian Right and an authoritarian Right.

        Comment by rmangum — May 16, 2009 @ 5:36 pm

  3. Once again, if you can show me one pro-war Leftie, I’ll concede the point.

    Comment by Francois Tremblay — May 16, 2009 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

    • Well, you aren’t going to find many who are for war as such, left or right, outside of a few romantic fascists. However, Marxist and Communist intellectuals in the West have supported or apologized for the Soviet invasions and repressions of east-European countries like Poland, Hungary, and Finland, as well as purgings and mass killings in the name of revolution such as those of Pol Pot. The list includes Raymond Williams, Eric Hobsawm, Frederic Jameson, Jacques Derrida, Pablo Neruda, George Bernard Shaw, Sydney and Beatrice Webb, and Alexandre Kojeve. Latter-day Frankfurt School-er Jurgen Habermas is a big fan of the Allied WWII victory, not only for the usual reasons (which are reasonable) but because he supports the forceful reconstruction of German citizenry. An interesting Telos article looks how the anti-fascism of the Frankfurt school becomes “militant democracy”:

      . . . new evidence strongly suggests that Horkheimer had, by 1941, already quite clearly and forcefully articulated what Jay called the “Cold War spirit.” Rather than resisting such a spirit, Horkheimer had actually urged its realization in policy and implementation far beyond probably what most Americans at the time had even anticipated or might find acceptable. In fact, one of Horkheimer’s major concerns in 1941 was that Americans failed to understand the urgent need for such drastic political action that in a certain sense constituted nothing less than a domestic political purge. Horkheimer was embracing a new kind of “militant democracy.”

      I put that phrase in bold to indicate that, despite the fact that Horkheimer considered himself practically a pacifist, his politics in fact presents a fairly pro-war gestalt. (We know that what “most Americans . . . find acceptable” is actually quite a great deal of militarism and foreign intervention.)

      In short, communists support communist wars against non-communists, liberals support wars under Democratic administrations.

      Comment by rmangum — May 17, 2009 @ 3:04 am | Reply

      • You’re talking about State Communists. That means they’re capitalists under another name (or capitalists are State Communists under another name, whichever). I’m talking about actual lefties, not wannabe-lefties.

        Comment by Francois Tremblay — May 17, 2009 @ 4:39 am

  4. Have it your way, but by that strident definition probably fewer than 1% of the population will qualify as actual lefties.

    Comment by rmangum — May 17, 2009 @ 5:26 pm | Reply

    • I think you’re wrong on that point. I’d love to see a survey that asks people who they think should own the means of production.

      Comment by Francois Tremblay — May 17, 2009 @ 6:27 pm | Reply


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