Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 14, 2006

American Eustonians

Filed under: cruise missile left — louisproyect @ 8:04 pm

Although it has almost no presence in Great Britain outside of a handful of pro-war blogs, the Euston Manifesto has now inspired (for lack of a better word) an American offshoot. You can read the American manifesto and its signatories both on the Euston website and at Telos Magazine, a publication that broke with socialism like many of the principals–including Norm Geras and Ronald Radosh.

The American manifesto was drafted by six professors and a deputy editor of the New Republic by the unlikely name of Richard Just. Like many of the New Republic editors, Just is a callow youth who graduated from Princeton in 2001. As is the case with many such ambitious ivy leaguers, it is well-understood that one’s career can best be advanced by promoting the New Republic brand of DLC politics or that of the overlapping neoconservative camp, especially when your main goal in life is to make bushels of money by flattering the men in power on Wall Street and Washington, DC. Just was formerly the editor of New Republic Online, which recently suffered a major embarrassment:

After an investigation, The New Republic has determined that the comments in our Talkback section defending Lee Siegel’s articles and blog under the username “sprezzatura” were produced with Siegel’s participation. We deeply regret misleading our readers. Lee Siegel’s blog will no longer be published by TNR, and he has been suspended from writing for the magazine.

 

Richard Just: callow youth

I guess that in the world of Democratic Party centrism, the Peter Principle applies just as much as it does in the corporate world.

The statement is filled with boiler-plate denunciations of anti-Americanism and Islamic extremism with one interesting Freudian slip:

Yet the passions of too many liberals here and abroad, even in the aftermath of terrorist attacks all over the world, remain more focused on the misdeeds and errors of our own government in Iraq than on the terrorist outrages by Islamic extremists.

Although one supposes that the “our government” referred to above refers to the one led by President Bush, it is certainly open to interpretation that they are referring to the Iraqi quislings which certainly can also be understood as “our own”.

The initial group of signers includes a mixture of cold war liberals like Daniel Bell as well as Republican Party activists like Robert “K.C.” Johnson, a Brooklyn College professor who comes across like David Horowitz on mood-relaxing medication.

The most interesting player in all this is Telos Magazine, which started out in 1969 as a Marxist journal with Franfurt School sympathies. Ironically, one of the more interesting accounts of this journal’s break with the left comes from Danny Postel, a turncoat himself. When he still had socialist pretensions, Postel wrote an article for “In These Times” in April 24, 1991 titled “The metamorphosis of Telos” that starts out like this:

WHY WOULD A JOURNAL that has described itself as “the philosophical conscience of the American left” and “a journal of radical thought” invite a senior contributing editor of The World & I–a publication of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times corporation–into its editorial circle? The journal is Telos, and its new comrade is Paul Gottfried, a self-described “reactionary” who has also written for such publications as Policy Review, the official magazine of the Heritage Foundation. Why would someone with Gottfried’s politics be interested in a journal like Telos?

That’s a good question, but it seems less challenging today than it did back in 1991 before the gates of hell had opened to unleash a transformed Christopher Hitchens and company. It was “Man bites dog” back then but today it amounts to “Dog bites man” and a big yawn.

Four years earlier Telos had put out a special issue on Carl Schmitt, the German legal theorist who, according to Postel, “authored no fewer than five books and 35 tracts in support of Hitler’s regime during the period of 1933-36.”

Schmitt, of course, became a figure to be reckoned with in the more recent past as the spiritual forefather of many of the neoconservatives associated with the war in Iraq, largely through the intermediary of his disciple Leo Strauss who was professor to a number of the prominent hawks at the U. of Chicago. Although Strauss was Jewish and forced to flee Nazi Germany, he retained many of the ideas he picked up from his professor.

Quoting from a Telos newsletter written in 1987, Postel hones in on what was behind the ideological mutation:

In a 1987 issue of the editors’ newsletter (the Telos Public Sphere), Piccone acknowledged a crisis at the journal–both organizational and theoretical: “Half of our editors have retired intellectually and burned out politically, the other half [are] rapidly becoming senile, cynical or purely careerist, while the rest are beset by a combination of both… What I think has happened is that, with the disappearance of any meaningful political ‘movement’ and the abandonment of the Marxist paradigm, we have scattered in many directions–not always necessarily compatible.” He bluntly called on his fellow editors to ask, “What do we stand for, and what are we attempting to accomplish with Telos?”

He concluded candidly that, “in a nutshell, our relation to capitalism has become much more tolerant and nuanced than ever before, especially in light of the disasters associated with any kind of socialism or planned economies.” He went on to lament that “lately Telos has not been flooded by much on the way of dynamite theoretical contributions… Either we move beyond this point or we are not going to be around very long.”

I found the self-description of “Half of our editors have retired intellectually and burned out politically, the other half [are] rapidly becoming senile, cynical or purely careerist, while the rest are beset by a combination of both…” most apt as a description of the Euston crowd as well.

2 Comments »

  1. The UK Eustian blogs, have reference to red flags, unions etc. It is confusing reading them. I think in the UK, a left cover is more necessary. More often than not, I don’t understand what they are saying in their posts.

    Isn’t Eustian good enough for the New Republic?

    Comment by Renegade Eye — September 15, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

  2. Interesting post – particularly with respect to where Telos ended up.

    The description ‘Half of our editors have retired intellectually and burned out politically, the other half [are] rapidly becoming senile, cynical or purely careerist, while the rest are beset by a combination of both…’ is very amusing, but while it seems to fit the older Geras wing of the Eustonites as a description, I suspect most of the younger Eustonites have no real connection to either the Left or the working class movement but are simply young Liberals who are trying to disguise their careerism and loyalty to New Labour with anti-Muslim racism.

    Comment by Snowball — September 16, 2006 @ 2:49 pm


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