[This article is reprinted from the National Observer.]
One of the great unresolved questions of recent history is why so many members of the Western left have become so besotted with, and apologetic for, ruthless totalitarian regimes. There have always been Western leftists who have idolised brutal regimes — be it the Soviet Union, communist Cuba or Islamist Iran —and preferred them to their own countries in the free and prosperous West.
Others have documented this phenomenon, such as Paul Hollander in various classic works, including Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, 1928-78 (1981) and Anti-Americanism (1995).
Here, in his recent book United in Hate, Jamie Glazov makes an attempt at exploring and explaining the Left’s love affair with terror and tyranny.
Glazov is very well qualified to do so, and not only because he has a PhD in history, specialising in US and Russian foreign policy. His personal story contributes much to this book. His parents were Soviet dissidents who fought against communist tyranny and oppression.
They managed to escape to the US in 1972. Their initial taste of glorious freedom was soon soured when they learned that there were Western academics and intellectuals who actually hated them and the message they had to share. These Western apologists for Soviet murder and genocide wanted nothing to do with the Glazovs, and sought to denounce and demonise them in the strongest terms.
Back in the Soviet Union they had risked their lives to campaign for the millions who were being tortured and killed in the Gulag slave labour camps and psychiatric hospitals simply because of their political and religious beliefs. Yet in America they were being viciously attacked by an intelligentsia that loathed America while idolising communist barbarism.
It was a shock the young Glazov never really recovered from, and here he seeks to assess and understand this most bizarre feature of Western life. And with the onset of militant Islam, he sees the whole scenario again being played out before his eyes.
The first half of this important book covers the earlier cases of Western fascination with, and blindness to, totalitarian nightmare states. The Soviet Union, Castro’s Cuba and Mao’s China were all objects of wide-eyed leftist veneration and adoration.
Glazov reminds us of the words of the US ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies, uttered during the height of Stalin’s murder of millions. He waxed eloquent in his love of Stalin with these words: Stalin’s "brown eye is exceedingly wise and gentle. A child would like to sit on his lap and a dog would sidle up to him."
French writer Jean-Paul Sartre could say this about another murderous thug, Fidel Castro: "Castro is at the same time the island, the men, the cattle and the earth. He is the whole island." And Father Daniel Berrigan, another longstanding apologist for tyrants, could say this of Hanoi’s prime minister Pham Van Dong: he is an individual "in whom complexity dwells: … a face of great intelligence, and yet also of great reserves of compassion …"
Or consider the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, who after capturing power in 1979 managed to carry out 8,000 political executions in the following three years. They made the nation a place of torture, repression and dictatorship. Yet plenty of Western leftists fell at their feet in worship.
German writer Günter Grass, who was shown a "prison" which the Sandinistas wanted political pilgrims to see — not the actual prisons where inmates were beaten, starved, tortured and killed — came back with euphoric exhilaration: "The humane way in which sentences are carried out!", he gushed, along with other sentimental mush.
Of course, the Soviets had done just the same with the Gulag decades earlier, to fool gullible Westerners who came over for a look. Western left-wingers were just as ignorant and easily deceived in the 1930s or ’50s as they were in the ’80s.
And they still are. The second half of this book looks at Islamic terrorism, and its Western apologists. There are plenty of leftists in the West who are convinced that Islamic terrorism either does not exist, or is all America’s fault.
Again, Glazov offers plenty of examples. The September 11 atrocity provides plenty of quotes. Norman Mailer called the suicide-hijackers "brilliant." He excused the attack by saying, "Everything wrong with America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel which consequently had to be destroyed."
Susan Sontag assured us that the terrorist attack was the result of "specific American alliances and actions." Film-maker Oliver Stone affirmed that 9/11 was a "revolt" and said the ensuing Palestinian celebrations were comparable to those seen in the French and Russian revolutions.
Christian leader Tony Campolo could argue that 9/11 was a legitimate response to the medieval Crusades. German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen described the 9/11 attacks as "the greatest work of art for the whole cosmos." On and on the apologists for terror and tyranny go. And then there is the inherent anti-Semitism in so much of this as well.
For many left-wingers, Israel is always the enemy, and the Muslim and Arab populations can do no wrong. Consider the remarks of Mike Wallace concerning Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the annihilation of Israel: "He’s an impressive fellow this guy. He really is. He’s obviously smart as hell. … You’ll find him an interesting man."
These leftists offered more support for Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein than they did for George W. Bush. Film-maker Michael Moore denounced the US while extolling the terrorists: "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘The Enemy.’ They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win."
Glazov devotes a chapter to seeking to examine the psychological makeup of these leftists whose romance with tyranny and terror seems so hard to fathom. They are alienated from their own homelands, although seldom realise it. They espouse a secular religion, a secular utopian vision which speaks much of humanity but is happy to see individual humans crushed in the attempt to create their coercive utopia.
The West-hating Left seems to be a permanent feature of modern Western life. Now that the communist revolution has lost its momentum, other causes must be found. The Islamist cause nicely does the trick. The same enemies are there, such as America, freedom and affluence.
As this book reminds us, we really have two enemies to contend with: murderous totalitarian ideologies of every stripe, and their Western leftist support base. It is an insidious alliance of which we all must be aware. This book does a fine job of making that very clear indeed.
Bill Muehlenberg is a commentator on contemporary issues, and lectures on ethics and philosophy. His website, CultureWatch is at: www.billmuehlenberg.com.
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