What matters for Hitchens is the world-transforming revolutionary impulse that animated both experiments…


From The New Statesman:

The neoconservatives who followed in Shachtman’s wake never actually swung to the right of American politics. If they supported the Bush II administration, it was not because they had come to accept the status quo. It was because they saw in the Bush White House an opportunity to use US military power to promote a “democratic capitalist” version of Trotsky’s permanent revolution.

Hitchens’s account of the origins of neoconservatism has obvious parallels with his own political trajectory. He has always made it clear that, for him, the decision to invade Iraq was justified as the beginning of a revolutionary war. It is this continuing ideological mindset that accounts for many of the misjudgements he has made over the past decade. For Hitchens, that the Iraq war proved to be a disaster does not show the enterprise to have been a mistake – any more than the disastrous history of the former Soviet Union shows that the Bolshevik revolution (for which Hitchens continues to nurse a decidedly soft spot) was a mistake. In both cases, the human costs count for very little in the final analysis. What matters is the world-transforming revolutionary impulse that animated both experiments.

There will be some on the left who admire this heroic indifference to consequences. Better persist in attempting the impossible, they will say, than embrace hopeless realism. The trouble is that, in politics, the pursuit of the impossible so often unhinges the mind, to the point of blocking any reliable perception of the course of events.

When Trotsky urged his American supporters to mount a campaign against joining Britain in an imperialist war in 1940, at a time when the Nazis had snuffed out practically all that remained of democracy in Europe, this was more than a strategic miscalculation. It was manifestly delusional. The same must be said of Hitchens’s assertion in 2007, reprinted here: “The world now faces a challenge from a barbarism that is no less menacing than its three predecessors – and may be even more so.”

There are some who represent Hitchens as a contrarian or provocateur, without convictions. They are wrong. What sort of provocateur would write that “Bin Ladenism” is more dangerous than German Wilhelmine imperialism, the Nazi-Fascist axis and international communism? Such a patently absurd claim could only be made by one who deeply believes it to be true.

“Arguably, by Christopher Hitchens, reviewed by John Gray”, The New Statesman