The Observer has run an extract from What’s Left? today. It’s essentially the introduction with tasters from the second half of the book on the liberal-Left after 9/11 thrown in.
You can read the whole lot here.
Below is a description of the book I’ve written for the Observer‘s website.
The extract in today’s Observer marks the launch of What’s Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way. The book is a history of a phenomenon that is so commonplace now hardly anyone notices it: the willingness of people on the liberal-Left to support or, more often, excuse or explain away totalitarian movements of the ultra Right. The reverse side of this debased coin is if anything an even more depressing story. Solidarity – the noblest virtue of the old Left – vanishes as people who call themselves feminists, socialists and liberals in the rich world refuse to support the victims of fascistic religious and secular movements, even when those victims share their values. As long as the persecutors are anti-American, their slaughters cannot be condemned unequivocally.
If you doubt that we are living in a bizarre time when righteous people are off on an ultra-Rightist binge, let me set you a test. Suppose I were to show you an article that didn’t quite support radical Islam, but hid behind a wall of excuses a movement that wants to subjugate women, kill the homosexuals, kill the Christians, kill the Jews, abolish democracy and establish a global totalitarian empire, and ask you to guess the writer’s politics. My bet is that you would reply automatically that he or she was from the Left – and that 99 times out 100 you would be right.
In trying to explain how the world has turned upside down, I look for clues to our present condition in the under-explored story of the pacifists and communists of the 1930s who ended up choosing to oppose Britain rather than Nazi Germany and at the strange case of the 1970s Trotskyists who turned to Saddam Hussein.
But the bulk of What’s Left? is an account of how ideas that began in the 1980s in the bewildered parties left by collapse of Marxism and the seminars of post-modern theorists flooded the Left. I make no apology for beginning in these dark corners. For good and ill, all new ideas begin among tiny groups of people, and the notion that it was somehow left wing to excuse fascism and somehow culturally imperialist to promote, say, women’s rights for every woman had to begin somewhere. The reasons for its eventual triumph are complicated. Obviously, the disasters of the Bush Presidency, rehearsed so often on these pages, play their part. But so, too, does the willingness of those who have lost their socialism but still affect a revolutionary style to go along with any violent threat to the status quo, however right wing it may be; the disillusion of mainstream liberals with the democratic societies they helped create; and the blunt fact that rich consumers in rich countries don’t like making commitments to others.
I don’t expect you to agree with everything I write – although it would be nice if you did. I merely hope to provoke some readers to take a look at themselves and ask if they are happy with what they have become and – more seriously – with where they are going.