Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 20, 2006

Euston Lite

Filed under: Academia,cruise missile left — louisproyect @ 8:17 pm

(UPDATE: Edward Herman on Gitlin and Ackerman.)

As I have pointed out in the past, Crooked Timber is useful for keeping track of the latest talking points of the liberal professorate. It is where you will find equal amounts of venom hurled at George W. Bush and Ward Churchill. The mindset is very much in the spirit of Phil Ochs’s lyric:

I read New Republic and The Nation
I’ve learned to take every view
You know, I’ve memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I’m almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There’s no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

In keeping with their sorry track record, Crooked Timber has now come out in favor of what might be called Euston Lite, another open letter calling for democracy, freedom, peace and social justice but implicitly backing just the opposite in true Orwellian fashion.



Bruce Ackerman (top) and Todd Gitlin (bottom) pontificating to students

This latest item is titled “We Answer to the Name of Liberals” and was initiated by Yale professor Bruce Ackerman and the loathsome Columbia professor Todd Gitlin. In contradistinction to the Euston Manifesto, this item is not tainted by an association with openly pro-war yahoos like Norm Geras and Oliver Kamm. That being said, it is important to recognize the affinity between the two camps, which amounts to a division of labor. Euston Heavy concentrates on winning support for Bush and Blair’s war, while Euston Lite concentrates on smearing its opponents. Gitlin, who never forgave Vietnam antiwar activists for refusing to vote for Hubert Humphrey, has spent the better part of 35 years pouring vitriol on anybody to the left of politicians like Humphrey. Here he is, tongue-lashing Ralph Nader:

What Nader’s decision amounts to is not logic but an exercise in monomania by a man who once accomplished great things and now believes that whatever he claims to accomplish is great by virtue of the fact that he claims it. Quixotic Nader, whose first run was tragedy, now tries farce. It’s not funny.

Showing an openness to crappy politics of all stripes, University of San Diego philosophy professor Harriet Baber has signed both Euston Heavy and Lite. Since she teaches logic, students might be well advised to think twice before enrolling in her class unless they have a taste for sophistry.

The Ackerman-Gitlin manifesto was prompted by a Tony Judt article that appeared in the London Review of Books as a timely rejoinder to the pro-war left types associated with Euston Heavy. Since there are obvious affinities between the prowar and anti-antiwar camps represented by Heavy and Lite respectively, it is understandable that Ackerman and Gitlin would want to distinguish themselves from a group that now is in an untenable situation. With even the White House being forced to consider alternatives to the current “stay the course” agenda, this leaves unreconstructed imperialists like Christopher Hitchens in an awkward position. Who would want to be amalgamated with the ideological counterparts of those sad Japanese soldiers who were discovered defending a foxhole in some remote Pacific Isle in the 1950s?

As opposed to warmongers like George W. Bush, the Euston Lite people are much more comfortable with the Bill Clinton way of waging war. They state that they supported the use of force in Yugoslavia, but just to show that they are good sports they also supported the war in Afghanistan. This probably defines the bankruptcy of liberalism more than anything else. These sorts of people don’t really have any principles about sending the US army and navy thousands of miles away to impose its will on the unruly native. They just work themselves into a lather when the mission is not clearly defined nor guaranteed of a successful result.

In a blog entry that flatters his Euston Heavy co-signatory Norm Geras, Marc Cooper puts it this way: “I never supported the war precisely because I lacked any confidence that — in reality– the Bush administration would be capable of carrying out what it had promised.” Needless to say, this kind of ‘realpolitik’ is virtually indistinguishable from what Henry Kissinger built a career around.

Bill Blum, a long-time critic of American foreign policy on a par with Euston Heavy and Lite nemesis Noam Chomsky, dismisses the idea that the Clinton Administration was less violent than the current gang running the show. In an Anti-Empire Report dated October 19, 2006, he puts it this way:

The cartoon awfulness of the Bush crime syndicate’s foreign policy is enough to make Americans nostalgic for almost anything that came before. And as Bill Clinton parades around the country and the world associating himself with “good” causes, it’s enough to evoke yearnings in many people on the left who should know better. So here’s a little reminder of what Clinton’s foreign policy was composed of. Hold on to it in case Lady Macbeth runs in 2008 and tries to capitalize on lover boy’s record.

Yugoslavia: The United States played the principal role during the 1990s in the destruction of this nation, republic by republic, the low point of which was 78 consecutive days of terrible bombing of the population in 1999. No, it was not an act of “humanitarianism”. It was pure imperialism, corporate globalization, getting rid of “the last communist government in Europe”, keeping NATO alive by giving it a function after the end of the Cold War. There was no moral issue behind US policy. The ousted Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic, is routinely labeled “authoritarian” (Compared to whom? To the Busheviks?), but that had nothing to do with it. The great exodus of the people of Kosovo resulted from the bombing, not Serbian “ethnic cleansing”; and while saving Kosovars the Clinton administration was servicing the Turkish massacre of Kurds. NATO admitted (sic) to repeatedly and deliberately targeting civilians; amongst other war crimes.[8]

Just a final word on the Crooked Timber blog. I imagine that some of the people who read this blog spend some time there as well. If so, they might have noticed that in the comments section following Henry Farrell’s entry on the Ackerman-Gitlin statement, there have been a number of references to me, mostly surprisingly supportive. I guess there is a certain disjunction between the stuffed-shirt character of the people who own and post to Crooked Timber and the normal human beings who post comments to it, as I used to. That gets me to a point of clarification. I was not banned from Crooked Timber. I stopped posting there after John Quiggin deleted a comment I had made about Yugoslavia that he described as “offensive”. In other words, he disagreed with my politics. This of course is their prerogative. My only response is that beneath the faculty club ‘gemutlichkeit’ pretensions of people like Quiggin, Farrell and company, there is a blackjack yearning to be set free.


  1. […] Euston Lite […]

    Pingback by nihil novum sub solem » Blog Archive » Euston Lite — October 21, 2006 @ 3:37 pm

  2. Nice stuff. I am sick to death of these people, who talk a wild game, and then expect us to roll over for bullshit lite. Out here in the great “progressive” mecca of Seattle, Washington, we’re getting a steady dose of union bureaucratese in support of Maria Cantwell, the Patriot Act apologist and defender of the current atrocities in Iraq. And when an earnest call for endorsement was made on the floor of the union’s representative assembly two weeks ago, we got in response the same old song in sad refrain: “The race is so close, we can’t afford to offer any support to a third party”. I’ve been hearing this from the left for oh, close to thirty years now.

    The most interesting thing about the person who made this argument is that, less than half an hour before, he had called for a union vote that would prevent “unsigned” articles from being distributed in the rep assembly. Never mind that half of what appears in the union newsletter every month is unsigned. Obviously the target is the newsletter that opposition within the union is trying to generate.

    Patriotism may be the last refuge of a scoundrel, but cowardice or craven behavior must be the penultimate acts at least.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — October 22, 2006 @ 7:56 pm

  3. Hmm, I’d recommend anyone interested look up what happened in Yugoslavia themselves rather than taking Mr. Proyect’s assertions at face value… they may find Milošević was not ‘only as bad as Bush’ (though to be fair I’m guessing Mr. Proyect considers Bush to be worse than a truly rational look would merit).

    Comment by Thomas Ash — October 26, 2006 @ 8:33 am

  4. “Since she teaches logic, students might be well advised to think twice before enrolling in her class unless they have a taste for sophistry.”

    If she teaches symbolic/mathematical logic, her skill at that and her teaching of that need have little relation to good informal reasoning in political matters. Also, even in the latter she may reason well, but from bad premises to bad conclusions. Or, at any rate, premises which you (and probably I) would to exception to.

    Comment by Paul Lyon — October 27, 2006 @ 12:47 am

  5. Scott McLemee is a pretty regular poster over there. I met him & he’s definitely not a laptop bombardier or liberal professoriat type 🙂

    Comment by eugene — February 19, 2007 @ 4:58 am

  6. […] I can’t say that I am one of Bruce Ackerman’s fans. After he and Todd Gitlin drafted an idiotic document titled “We Answer to the Name of Liberals” that “supported the use of American force, together with our allies, in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan,” I cast him into the lower depths of liberal hell along with the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Albert Shanker. My response to the Gitlin-Ackerman article is here. […]

    Pingback by Erik Olin Wright’s “Envisioning Real Utopias” « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — March 6, 2007 @ 6:33 pm

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