The ties that bind leftism with Islamism.
This review is reprinted from the Winter 2011 issue of Midstream.
United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror. By Jamie Glazov. Los Angeles: WND Books, 2009. xxxii + 264 pp.
Jamie Glazov was born in the USSR in 1966. His parents were both dissidents, who felt they had to flee. They left the USSR in 1972 and settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1975. Glazov grew up in a family that knew about the horrors of totalitarianism. He eventually earned a Ph.D. in history and is now the managing editor of Frontpage Magazine, an online political journal that fights totalitarian tendencies in leftist thinking. To a certain extent, Glazov is continuing a fight against totalitarianism and anti-Semitism that was begun by Hannah Arendt.
In 1951, Arendt wrote a book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, which has since become a classic, exploring the 20th-century phenomenon of totalitarianism. One-fourth of this work is devoted to the question of anti-Semitism.1 Arendt wrote the book shortly after World War II, but her decision to link an ancient prejudice to a modern political ideology is as valid today as it was then. Glazov, in his book, provides us with a quotation to illustrate this connection. Ulrike Meinhof, one of the founders of the terrorist Baader-Meinhof Gang, said, “Auschwitz meant that six million Jews were killed … for what they were: money Jews. … Anti-Semitism is really a hatred of capitalism.”2 Meinhof was proud of her anti-Semitism.
Meinhof, to be sure, was a terrorist. Unfortunately, many leftists who have never committed acts of violence take positions approaching hers. Noam Chomsky, for example, would never describe himself as an anti-Semite and became famous for his writings on linguistics before he had published anything about politics. Chomsky visited Hezbollah in 2006 despite the fact that its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, had said about Jews, “If they all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”4 Chomsky showed by his visit that he had chosen not to understand that Nasrallah was calling for genocide.
Glazov feels that there are two basic reasons that the left has joined Muslim terrorists to oppose Jews and Israel. “First … leftism, like Islamism, detests modernity, individual freedom, and any value placed on individual human life. … In addition, Jews are seen as being synonymous with the oppressive structures of corporate capitalism and globalization.”5 Oddly, nowhere in the book are Israel’s kibbutzim ever mentioned. Before Israel became an independent state, its cultivated land consisted of either kibbutzim (communal farms) or moshavim (cooperative farms). A kibbutz was unambiguously a socialist enterprise; a moshav was partly private and partly communal. Since farms take up much more space than cities and towns do, most of the land owned by Jews during the days of the British Mandate was either entirely or partially the property of socialist communities. Corporate capitalism indeed! Leftist opponents of Israel have chosen not to know this fact, and Glazov has not reminded them or us about this piece of history.
Glazov's book is divided into four sections: (1) The Believer, (2) Romance with Tyranny, (3) The Death Cult Cousin: Islamism, and (4) Romance with Terror. The first part sets the tone for the whole book. Believers don't question. They have faith. Marxism is not a religion, but it does demand belief—blind belief—in the doctrines it teaches. Leftists today may ignore Marx's writings about economics, but they support and have always supported regimes that suppress free thought. As we saw above, Glazov says that rejecting modernity and individuality is what links leftism to Islamism.
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Some readers may disagree with Glazov’s allegation that leftism detests modernity, individual freedom, and the value of individual human life. At this point, we should remember that a liberal is not a leftist For example, Nadine Gordimer, responding to an interviewer who described her as a white liberal, said, “I happen to be white, but I'm not a liberal, my dear. I'm a leftist.”6 Glazov writes of many leftists who certainly are not liberals but rather supporters of totalitarianism, the various systems of thought control that Arendt talked about in her 1951 book.
Hannah Arendt’s good friend, Mary McCarthy, praised North Vietnamese society because she felt it had controlled thought and recreated human nature. McCarthy wrote, “The phenomena of existential agony, of alienation, don’t appear among the Vietnamese—probably in part because they lack our kind of ‘ego,’ and our endowment of free-floating guilt.”7 It is amazing that a novelist as informed and sensitive as McCarthy could actually believe that North Vietnam had ended ego and free-floating guilt; it is even more amazing that she could believe this was a good thing. McCarthy certainly was not alone. Shirley MacLaine, who visited China in 1972, wrote that she had never seen a quarrel in China and went on to say that “it slowly dawned on me that perhaps human beings could really be taught anything, that we were simply blank pages upon which our characters are written by parents, schools, churches, and the society itself.”8 MacLaine is unambiguously cheering the idea of thought control and the desirability of erasing human differences. I should add a personal note here: I lived in China twice, during the spring semesters of 1984 and 1989, and I saw and heard lots of quarrels. MacLaine, of course, is echoing Marx and Engels, who said that after the final stage of communism was achieved, people would no longer have any disagreements and the state would wither away.
Glazov, as we saw above, said that the left had joined with Islamism to oppose Jews since Jews were linked to globalism and capitalism. But there is a more profound factor in the hostility that totalitarians feel toward Jews: Jews argue. They think dangerous thoughts. Marxist regimes reject thinkers and intellectuals. Chairman Mao exiled teachers and writers to the countryside to learn from the peasants. Pol Pot simply killed them. Mao and Pol Pot didn’t attack Jews because there weren’t any in China and Cambodia (the Jews of Kaifeng, China, had assimilated and become invisible long before Mao ruled the country). Hitler, to be sure, never explained why he had to kill people who were Jews or descended from Jews. Perhaps he felt that the genetic flaw he had to eradicate was the argument gene.
Since Jews argue, a variety of beliefs may be found among them. There have certainly been Jews who were Communists; there are even Jews today who are sympathetic to Islamism. All the same, it is logical that argument and free thought are a problem for totalitarians. Totalitarians hate Jews. Hitler’s decision to try to eradicate Jews from the world was nevertheless irrational. Germany was a country that always respected scholars and intellectuals, and Hitler did not eliminate scholars the way Mao and Pol Pot did. Jews were heavily represented among Germany’s academics and scientists. Hitler knew he needed scientists because he wanted Germany to be able to produce atomic weapons, but anti-Semitism took priority over this need. Einstein fled Germany; Edward Teller and Szilard fled Germany’s ally, Hungary. Enrico Fermi, who was not Jewish but was married to a Jew, fled Europe when Mussolini extended Hitler’s racial laws to Italy. Hitler, for reasons that will never be fully understood, felt that killing Jews was virtuous and that virtue took precedence over his country’s military needs.
Hitler was a music lover who admired the music of Anton Bruckner, Richard Wagner, and Richard Strauss. He almost certainly would have adored the music of Gustav Mahler, but anti-Semitism came first. Mahler had been born a Jew, and so his music was banned, as was the music of Mendelssohn, another composer of Jewish descent. Jewish musicians fled, if they were lucky and able to do so. Those who didn’t escape were murdered.
Today, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is echoing the irrationality that Hitler put into effect 70 years ago. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has led many nations to impose sanctions against it. Israel may decide that it has to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Ahmadinejad has no practical need for these weapons, which are threatening his country’s security rather than protecting it. But he is amassing atomic bombs as part of a policy announced by moderate President Ali Akhbar Rafsanjani, who has in effect suggested that Iran should turn itself into a suicide bomb. In the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) sermon given on December 14, 2001, Rafsanjani said that if one day the world of Islam comes to possess nuclear weapons, Israel could be destroyed. He went on to say that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would leave nothing standing, but that retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely do damage to the world of Islam.9
President Ahmadinejad, unlike Rafsanjani, is no moderate. How can sanctions frighten him if he is not afraid of exposing Iran to nuclear retaliation? Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad doesn’t care how much damage he will do to his own people if that’s the price he has to pay to act out his insanely murderous plans.
Hitler, as we have seen, eliminated Jewish musicians and music by composers of Jewish ancestry, but he did not hate music per se. Stalin attacked Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Khachaturian for composing music that was bourgeois—whatever that means—but he did not hate music per se. On the other hand, as Glazov informs us, “The Taliban illegalized music completely in Afghanistan, and Ayatollah Khomeini banned most music from Iranian radio and television.”10 Lenin did not ban music, but he wouldn’t listen to it. “It makes you want to say stupid, nice things and stroke the heads of people who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell.”11 During Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the only musical works that could be performed were eight revolutionary operas selected by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing. The idea of limiting and censoring music is at least as old as the 4th century B.C.E., when Plato wrote that in the Republic he envisioned, the flute and other instruments “capable of modulation into all the modes” would be banned.12 We don’t think of Plato as a totalitarian, but he shared the totalitarian rulers’ fear of the power of music to unleash the human spirit.
Plato expressed an idea that is related to thought control: he called for the Noble Lie, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one. In particular, he said that the people should be taught that Rulers were made with gold, Auxiliaries with silver, and craftsmen with iron and brass.13 Chairman Mao also divided people into three categories. The first was Mao himself; the second was the Party; the third was the laobaixing, the ordinary people (literally the “old 100 surnames”). When I was teaching in China in 1989, during Beijing Spring, passers-by approached me and asked questions, often in Chinese. One man asked me whether, if Plato were alive today, he would consider Chairman Mao an example of the Philosopher King. My Chinese is not very good, but the man was very patient and made sure that I understood his question. Since I disapprove of the politics of both Plato and Chairman Mao, I said yes. The question led me to understand that it was no accident that Mao and Plato both wanted to ban certain kinds of music.
Plato said that literature should be altered so that people should not fear death: “The poets must be told to speak well of that other world. The gloomy descriptions they now give must be forbidden, not only as untrue, but as injurious to our future warriors.”14 We are reminded of the perpetrators of 9/11, who willingly died so that they could kill, even though their dramatic and well-coordinated plan could not in any conceivable way have helped the cause of Islam. And as Glazov writes, “Palestinian children blew themselves into smithereens while their parents celebrated, proud that their offspring had become shahid (martyrs).”15 Totalitarians love death, unlike Jews, which may be another factor in explaining why totalitarians are so anti-Semitic. “Two of the most outstanding Jewish characteristics are the love of life and the enduring struggle to survive. For Islamists, as for Nazis and communists, this is an egregious transgression against their faith.”16
Genocide was Hitler’s primary goal. Stalin engineered a famine in his war against the kulaks that killed millions. Mao caused the greatest famine in all human history. Pol Pot killed about a third of his own people. The Kim Dynasty has caused years and years of starvation in North Korea. Ahmadinejad is looking forward to fighting a nuclear war against Israel. Totalitarianism is about death. Life is about learning more every day. Those who fear learning also hate life. As Glazov shows us, that is why totalitarians are united in hate.
1. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, New York: Harcourt, 1951.
2. Glazov, p. 209.
3. Ibid., p. 214.
4. “Nasrallah’s Nonsense,” editorial, The New York Sun, March 11, 2005.
5. Glazov, p. 211.
6. “Johannesburg Journal: A Vibrant Battler of Apartheid Keeps her Vibrancy,”
The New York Times, May 10, 2002.
7. Glazov, p. 65.
8. Ibid., p. 79.
9. MEMRI Special Dispatch 325.
10. Glazov, p. 141.
11. Ibid., p. 18.
12. Plato, Republic, Book III: 398-400.
13. Ibid., Book III: 414.
14. Ibid., Book II: 383-387.
15. Glazov, p. 106.
16. Ibid., p. 105.
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