Timothy Burke entirely misreads (or has failed to read) the most important section of the book, which I have called “The Mind of the Left” as an homage to a classic text by W.J. Cash called, The Mind of South. This section consists of eight sub-chapters and constitutes about a quarter of the text. It is, I believe, the first detailed attempt to describe and understand the continuities between the Communist left and the current left, which might be described as a post-modern “progressive” coalition. This coalition appears to the outside observer at first to be ideologically inchoate. Yet it acts in unison on the most crucial issue of our time, which is the war on terror in Iraq.
The left coalition is unified by its opposition to the war in Iraq and more particularly by its antagonism towards the United States and Israel. The task I set for myself in Unholy Alliance was to explain this unity, to identify the coherence of the leftist worldview amidst all of its apparent cacophony and conflict. I believe I did this. Because Professor Burke views this analysis of the “mind of the left” as a species of intellectual history, which it is not, he spends a lot of time belaboring me for not writing descriptive accounts of the varieties of leftism. My purpose was to explain why the varieties can work in common, why a democratic socialist like Todd Gitlin and a totalitarian radical like Howard Zinn both oppose an American effort to overthrow a fascist dictator like Saddam Hussein. It’s an interesting question – too bad that Professor Burke has not one word to say about it in his entire review.
What is it about the left that causes it to hate America and Israel, two multi-ethnic democracies which in the practical environment of international politics are arguably the most decent societies on the face of the earth? The first part of my answer is that the left is a religious rather than a strictly political formation and that its organizing principle is a redemption myth. This myth is rooted in a psychological need that is common to all individuals who make up the left and is so powerful as to render them impervious to the historical experience that refutes all such utopian aspirations. I use the figure of Eric Hobsbawm, one of the most respected academic historians in the world as an example of how this psychological need overpowers historical reason and experience – and does so by his own admission.
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