Good Bad Indifferent: Christopher Hitchens the old Trot
Good Bad Indifferent: Christopher Hitchens the old Trot
I often wonder whether George Orwell would be rolling in his grave at the liberties that Christopher Hitchens has taken with his legacy. We have to remember that Orwell made his reputation as a great thinker in the west because of two novels: ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’. Both of these novels deal with totalitarian nature of Socialism and draw heavily upon the example of Soviet History. Out of the ethos, of these novels rather than their explicit design, the exiled communist Leon Trotsky becomes a martyr. In Animal Farm he is the poor little pig that is chased from the farm by the bully Stalin and in 1984 he reborn as Goldstein the figure of official institutionalized hate. By default we can be left with the impression that Leon Trotsky was the nicer, kinder, softer, liberal socialist that would have delivered the worker’s paradise without the Stalinist bloodletting. This is a naive self serving myth belonged to an age where ignorance of the crimes of the old revolutionaries was proof of their virtues.
The argument went something like this: Lenin good, Stalin Bad; Trotsky Good, Pol Pot bad; 4 legs good, two legs bad. The unfortunate detail left out of this secular canonization of Trotsky was that he and Lenin were both mass murderers. Soon after the Russian Revolution Lenin set about mass executions and the first purges of communist Russia. In the same era Trotsky was installed as the head of the Red Army and engaged in the mass slaughter of civilians. If we are to believe that he was some kind of deep human rights libertarian then were must ignore his contempt for democracy; his purges and his concept of continuous revolution. Trotsky did not kill less people because he was less ruthless than Stalin rather he it was because he never had the opportunity to fulfil his ambitions. In a power struggle between the Stalin and all his rivals Trotsky ended up being exiled and was eventually assassinated by a Stalinist Agent. Thus began the transformation from mass murderer to secular martyr that has beguiled Trotskyites for decades.
A few years ago Christopher Hitchens was a dedicated Marxist Leninist who worshiped the ground that Trotsky walked. In the ensuing years he abandoned Socialism in his transformation to become a Neoconservative but he did not abandon Trotsky. Instead he continues to support the myth of the sanitized good communist, writing numerous articles and giving television interview praising the virtues of intellectual master.
It may seem very schizophrenic for someone to go from extreme Left politics to the extreme Right politics but there are precedents. Benito Mussolini had done the same thing before he formed Fascist movement in Italy and more recently failed US presidential candidate Larouche is also former Marxist who shifted his politics to opposite poll. It could be argued that it is not the ideology of Left versus Right that attracted these people but that they were looking for any extremist that would further their own extreme ambitions. In the case of Christopher Hitchens he shifted into the extreme rightwing ended up being a vocal Neocon calling for the invasion of Iraq. More recently he was calling for the bombing of Iran nuclear plants in the guise of being a positive intervention.
Like his other contemporary Neocons Hitchens continues to sing the praises of the Bush administrations invasion of Iraq by writing articles like “A War to Be Proud Of” In it he tries to belittle anyone questions the original premise for Iraq war as being ‘childish’ with diatribes like this: “You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Qaeda. . . . Blah, blah, pants on fire.” Later he writes about “the sob-sister tripe pumped out by the Cindy Sheehan circus and its surrogates.” The he uses terms like ‘peaceniks’ and ‘gargoyles’ to describe his enemies. This is the choice of language of what is supposed to be one of the great intellectuals of the New Atheist movement? I can imagine his ideological targets rubbing their hand with glee and having a quiet chuckle at this self mutilating style of writing. If this is the brainiest of the New Atheists then they have nothing to fear because he only discredits himself with statements like this: “This will be no war — there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention…. The president will give an order. [The attack\ will be rapid, accurate and dazzling…. It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on.”
(Christopher Hitchens, in a 1/28/03 debate– cited in the Observer, 3/30/03)
Hitchens groupies think otherwise. Richard Dawkins describes him as an intellectual force so effective that he warns ‘religious apologists never to debate this man’. Others continue to quote his books and lecture as if they were unquestionable intellectual gold. His longwinded attack on Mother Teresa of Calcutta in ‘Missionary Position’ is still being quoted by his fans as gospel truth despite the fact that in the entire book there was not one citation to prove his many inflammatory claims. This is not only clumsy writing but for someone who insists on being called ‘Professor’ Christopher Hitchens it is intellectually inexcusable. His other claims border on lunacy such as his opinion that had Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas been adopted in India millions would have died as a result. As for his pseudo history of the causes of World War 2 reads like a bunch of wild conspiracy theories that would rival anything that ‘Protocols of Zion’ claim.
The problem with Hitchens is not one of grand intellectual disagreement but one of intellectual dishonesty. He riles viciously against people like Mother Teresa and Gandhi, who have killed no one, but worships mass murderers like Trotsky and Lenin. He spends endless amounts of writing trying to build the case that ‘God is not Great’ and ‘How Religion Poisons Everything’ but the same time promoted the invasion of Iraq as a wonderful thing. The conservatively estimated 200,000 dead civilians and 4 million refugees as a result of the war are somehow of no importance.
To say that Hitchens has abandoned his Marxist Leninist leanings is a stretch. In 2005 in an interview with PBS he said about the Russian Revolution, “It had crucially undermined the autocracy, the Romanov dynasty. And I think it had very much discredited the Russian Orthodox Church, for which he had a particular dislike. But he was very willing to finish those jobs, all three of them, to wipe out the Romanov family, to rebuild the army, and under Trotsky’s leadership of the Red Army, and to seize the opportunity to confiscate church property and to dissolve, as far as possible, the influence of the church.”
On one side Hitchens sides with Neocons to excuse the invasion of Iraq but on the other he sides with the Left to excuse Lenin’s oppression of the Orthodox. “One of Lenin’s great achievements, in my opinion, is to create a secular Russia,” he says in the next paragraph. Reading this one may soon draw the conclusion that Hitchens would side with anyone as long as they promise to kill the enemies he points out for them.
People may sit back and wonder why ‘Professor’ Hitchens would lower himself down to level of muckraker peddling cheap conspiracy theories and personal insults. Wouldn’t he be able to present his case in a logical and precise way? However that is not what Hitchens is made off. He is in essence a product of communist revolutionary thinking where purging the enemy is essential; where a lie is only that which opposes the state and where he was immersed in the Soviet style hate filled of anti religious propaganda. Unfortunately for the rest of society it is this regurgitated propaganda that is given free ride.
I still wonder what George Orwell would think of this new line people like Hitchens. Perhaps he would be wondering why such people are only paying him lip service.