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Deconstructing the ideological mazes leftists construct to avoid supporting American power
The typical leftist opposes American power, even when it is the only defense for the other values they claim to profess
During the Cold War, setting to the side leftists that just supported Soviet totalitarianism, the most succinct slogan of the approach other leftists took was the slogan: “Neither Washington nor Moscow but the international working class.”
Syria made me confront the realities of what happens when there’s a clash between the two global powers (of course, Russia is not Stalinist anymore, yet the analogy works both because a chunk of the left still aligns with Putin and because the same problems entail) but "the international working class" isn’t able to make its own mark. The consequence of a vacuum of American power in Syria is more bombed hospitals and no working class. The "third camp" exists only as an ideological fantasy, a path to ritual purity perhaps.
Tied to this is the stance of the Marxian left which sees democracy as a fraud and a trick (which is needed to ignore or belittle the stakes in such power clashes).
It’s taken me too long to realize that that was not Marx’s argument and that political democracy and civil society are foundational to social democracy and economic gains insofar as the possibility for “the international working class” (for anyone) to organize requires democracy and civil society (freedom of speech, freedom of organization).
The fact that those things are not simply tricks should be obvious when looking at the history of the US as compared to Stalinist countries, none of which saw a single successful social movement, except the ability to finally overthrow them once American power had weakened Russian imperialism enough.
Q: “But what about XYZ that the US did?”
A: "Yes, that is unjust. The question isn't whether the US or any other democratic country is flawless, but that there is the possibility of doing something about it."
On a parallel track, it took me a while to realize the problem with how most deal with “hypocrisy" (why should the US help Syrians when it did XYZ wrong thing, says the leftist).
There’s a kind of moral disgust in us at seeing words contradict actions, but the obvious moral response should be to encourage the “hypocrite” to do better, not to mock them for doing something good (or more: they arguably have more of a responsibility to do the good thing, not less).
Worse, if a doctor tells you not to smoke and then smokes themselves, they’re a hypocrite, yet the Stalinist doctor in this analogy tells you to smoke but knows better for themself. But somehow it seems that the first kind of hypocrite comes in for more of a moral thrashing because we expect more from them.
A similar category error comes in when “America” is compared to an ideal standard, but then with Syria, China, Russia, etc. it becomes solely about consequences and “context.” This is not an argument for abandoning either ideal standards or taking contextual views. However, they should both be held in mind and applied consistently and self-consciously.