No, despite the Simpsons reference, I do not welcome them. Nor does Lee Smith, who understands the Nietzschean roots of the Left in its current incarnation, including our President. (HT: Richard Fernandez.) Fascism was always a movement of the Left. What is new is that fascism now dominates the Left, in Western nations, at least.
I urge you to read the entire article. Here’s a taste:
Many of the veterans of the Western left are at pains to point out to their younger colleagues that their admiration for the Islamic Resistance is misplaced, that Hezbollah does not share their progressive values, their interest in, say, women’s rights or gay marriage. But it is the old-time leftists who are mistaken, for the rising generation that admires Hezbollah knows all that – and as I said, it is not about values. Indeed, to couch it in the terms appropriate to the matter at hand, there has been a trans-valuation of values.
To understand why the Western left admires the Islamic Resistance, it is most useful – and timely – to consider Iran’s Islamic Revolution, and its most famous Western advocate, Michel Foucault. The French historian was the most talented heir to a long line of mid-twentieth-century French intellectuals whose formative experience was World War II. Writers like Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris were among those who, in the wake of two Europe-wide wars that left many tens of millions dead, spoke of the purgative nature of violence. What the conflagration had exposed, in their view, was that more violence yet was required to cleanse the West of its hypocrisy, the sickness that started with the Enlightenment and culminated in those two wars.
The intellectuals turned against liberalism, and all it entailed. “Industrial capitalism,” Foucault said, had emerged as “the harshest, most savage, most selfish, most dishonest, oppressive society one could possibly imagine.” Foucault sought out other politics and practices, and in 1978 the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra sent him to Tehran to cover the revolution then taking shape. He wrote, “It is perhaps the first great insurrection against global systems, the form of revolt that is the most modern and most insane.” Don’t be confused by what has become mainstream anti-globalization rhetoric; the main theme is in the insanity.
It’s bizarre that these intellectuals turned against democratic liberalism in the aftermath of World War II, as if Churchill and Roosevelt, rather than Mussolini and Hitler, had been the ones responsible for the disaster. What sort of reading of history does such a response require? And is it any surprise that these intellectuals turned their sights not only on democracy and liberal values but also on truth, evidence, and objectivity, since no objective or even vaguely reasonable account of history could support their interpretation of events?
Foucault’s hero was Nietzsche, apostle of the will to power. In the view of the European post-Nietzscheans, the real problem with liberal humanism wasn’t its repressive nature, but that it repressed the wrong people. It leveled the playing field with the result that everyone was mediocre. What Nietzsche called slave morality meant in effect that slaves were to be granted the same rights as their masters, the bourgeois were entitled to the same privileges as the aristocrats of spirit. Democracy and liberalism had stripped the world of its primordial magic. Rather, the authentic life was to be found in the charisma of the great leader and his stark displays of power, the superman who transcended bourgeois values. It is said that Foucault was later disappointed by the Iranian Revolution, but make no mistake: He knew exactly what he was looking at in the orgiastic violence and the bright blood spilled in the streets of Tehran.
Thirty years after the Islamic Revolution and a quarter century after the death of Foucault, an entire generation of Western Europeans and Americans, the cream of our cultural elite, has been shaped by an intellectual current that despises liberalism and dismisses as mediocre the universal humanism that prizes the same values across cultures, from the US and Europe to the Middle East. Instead, it welcomes the return of the magic, the blood and power, the violence of the strongman.
Smith’s analysis insightfully points to the Romantic foundations of the Leftist worldview. Marx and Engels, Mussolini and Hitler, Foucault and Fanon, Marcuse and Obama—all are essentially heirs of the Romantic movement, its hostility to Reason and objectivity, its admiration for subjectivity, authenticity, and passion, and its longing for a mythical, mystical, meaningful past. The Left, not even remotely progressive, yearns to return to a golden age that never was, and is willing to to pay any price—even, or perhaps especially, in blood—to get there.
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