When forming one’s political orientation, a consistency of human solidarity and to fundamental morality is more important than any inflexible scheme of ideological consistency, purity and rigidity.
Albert Camus urged us (in Howard Zinn’s words):
“In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.”
This last quote is an abstraction by Howard Zinn of Albert Camus’s following concluding statement from his 1940s article ‘Toward Dialogue: Neither Victims nor Executioners’:
“Now I can end. What I think needs to be done at the present time is simply this: in the midst of a murderous world, we must decide to reflect on murder and choose. If we can do this, then we will divide ourselves into two groups: those who, if need be, would be willing to commit murder or become accomplices to murder, and those who would refuse to do so with every fiber of their being. Since this awful division exists, we would be making some progress, at least, if we were clear about it. Across five continents, an endless struggle between violence and preaching will rage in the years to come. And it is true that the former is a thousand times more likely to succeed than the latter. But I have always believed that if people who placed their hope in the human condition were mad, those who despaired of events were cowards. Henceforth there will be only one honorable choice: to wager everything on the belief that in the end words will prove stronger than bullets.”
— [Albert Camus, an English translation, as shown at the end in https://adamgomez.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/camus-neither-victims-nor-executioners.pdf]
Writing in the postwar France of 1955, on the theme of ‘the responsibility of the intellectuals’ as regards Stalinism, Raymond Aron wrote:
“I had had occasion… to write a number of articles directed not so much against the Communists [like the French Resistance, who shed blood in WWII to liberate people from fascist tyranny, — MG,Jr.] as against the communisants, those who do not belong to the party but whose sympathies are with the Soviet world… Seeking to explain the attitude of intellectuals, merciless toward the failings of the democracies but ready to tolerate the worst crimes as long as they are committed in the name of the proper doctrines, I soon came across the sacred words, Left, Revolution, Proletariat.”
— [Raymond Aron, ’The Opium of the Intellectuals,’ 1955]
In the 1966, Noam Chomsky wrote his own famous essay ’The Responsibility of Intellectuals,’ which was about the complicity of the American intelligentsia with pro Vietnam War propaganda. Chomsky keyed his 1966 article off the late 1940s writings of Dwight Macdonald, who was “concerned with the question of war guilt”:
“He asks… to what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments? And, quite properly, he turns the question back to us: to what extent are the British and American people responsible for the vicious terror bombings of civilians, perfected as a technique of warfare by the western democracies [in the 1940s, though pioneered by the Nazis at Guernica in 1937 and Warsaw in 1939, — MG,Jr.] and reaching their culmination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely among the most unspeakable crimes in history? To an undergraduate in 1945-1946 — to anyone whose political and moral consciousness had been formed by the horrors of the 1930s, by the war in Ethiopia, the Russian purge, the ‘China Incident,’ the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi atrocities, the Western reaction to these events and, in part, complicity in them — these questions had particular significance and poignancy.”
— [Noam Chomsky, ’The Responsibility of Intellectuals,’ 1966]
The forerunner to Albert Camus, Dwight Macdonald, Raymond Aron and Noam Chomsky on the subject of ‘the responsibility of intellectuals’ was Julien Benda, whose 1927 book ‘La Trahison des clercs’ (The Treason of the Intellectuals or The Betrayal by the Intellectuals) “argued that European intellectuals in the 19th and 20th centuries had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering, and racism.”
This brings me to current heated polemics about the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 21 February 2022 (or for that matter in 2014).
I have learned a new label, “campists,” for a peculiar subset of polemicists who insist that all the current war troubles (and accumulating war crimes) in Ukraine are entirely the fault of a relentless NATO (and thus U.S.) campaign of eastward expansion for the express purpose of forming an “encirclement” of Russia. What they refuse to accept about Ukraine in 2022 is this:
“[Timothy] Snyder says the focus on NATO ignores the agency of leaders in Ukraine and elsewhere who have the right to seek their own arrangements. ‘It’s very important to remember that the world isn’t just about Washington and Moscow. It’s also about other sovereign states and other peoples who can express their desires and have their own foreign policies,’ says Snyder.” — from:
Journalist Andrew Cockburn & Historian Timothy Snyder on Ukraine, Russia, NATO Expansion & Sanctions
1 March 2022
In this ‘Democracy Now’ video, Snyder has all the facts, states the reality about “Ukraine” and the international situation clearly, and has the real and useful (and morally correct) insights.
The reason the countries between Berlin and Moscow (Baltic States and the former East Bloc) have clambered to become members of NATO since 1989, despite a lack of enthusiasm by the original Anglo-American and Western European NATO members (the WWII democratic “Allies”) for such inclusion, is that those Eastern European states all too painfully remember the hell they went through under Nazi and USSR occupations, between 1933 and 1945, and their Iron Curtain experiences from 1946 to 1989-1991.
In the 1980s I learned about the “govnoed,” by reading Western-published books by dissident Soviet authors writing about the Nomenklatura: the USSR’s Communist Party power elite and patronage pyramid. The “govnoed” of the 20th century are now in an expanded category call “campists.”
I see the ~100 year genealogy of this hypocritical ideological tendency this way:
(Comintern aligned Communists >1924):
- Stalinists labeled leftist anti-Stalinists like: Trotsky, Orwell, Louis Proyect(!), as “Trotskyists” —>
(French “anti Atlanticists” like J.P.Sartre >1945):
- Communisants labeled anti-Stalinists like: Camus, Koestler, Arendt, Aron as “Atlanticists” —>
- “shit eaters,” the Soviet label for uncritically loyal Western Stalinists during the Soviet era after Stalin’s death —>
- Western Stalinists cheering Soviet tanks crushing popular revolutions, 1953, 1956, 1968, etc. —>
- Western only-anti-Western-imperialism leftists —>
- “Campists” = Leftists who claim that all popular insurgencies against leaders who pretend to be “socialist” (and are faux anti-capitalist) and seem to oppose U.S. imperialism (e.g., Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, etc.), are incited, manipulated, or controlled by Washington. Basically, campists inflexibly favor the presumably socialist and anti-capitalist “Red Camp” of international politics in any contentious situation, without regard to the factual data about it.
“The Democratic Socialists of America’s International Committee has issued a statement on Ukraine that fails to adhere to basic socialist principles. [that statement is ‘DSA IC opposes US militarization and interventionism in Ukraine and Eastern Europe and calls for an end to NATO expansionism’, January 31, 2022, https://international.dsausa.org/statements/no-war-with-russia/]…
“The DSA-IC dismisses the Maidan Protest of 2014 as the ‘U.S. backed Maidan coup.’ It thus associates itself with others on the left – we call them ‘campists’ – who claim that all popular insurgencies against leaders who seem to oppose U.S. imperialism are incited, manipulated, or controlled by Washington. There is a degree of condescension and even racism in the notion that movements from below of ordinary Ukrainian, Chinese, Iranian, or Nicaraguan working people are U.S. puppets.
“These people are perfectly capable of standing up for themselves and fighting back, even if they do so against overwhelming odds. Do the U.S. State Department and the CIA and NATO attempt to influence and, when they can, direct such movements? Of course. It is clear, however, that the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Maidan uprising were fundamentally expressions of the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people – fed up with the brutality of their government’s treatment of protesters – and their wish for self-determination, and not because they were being directed by Washington or by neo-Nazis. The Ukrainian people seek their independence, and we should stand with them against both the United States and NATO and against the immediate threat from Russia.”
— [above 3 paragraphs from]:
What the DSA International Committee’s Ukraine Statement Gets Wrong
By: Stephen R. Shalom, Dan La Botz, Thomas Harrison
February 9, 2022
And this all brings me back to my fundamental point: form your political orientation on a basis of consistency in human solidarity and to fundamental morality, regardless of whatever ideological inconsistencies, impurities and pragmatic flexibility you must accept during the specific applications of your political attitudes, and in your actions, in the real world. The well-being of human beings anywhere is always more important than maintaining the rigidity of your abstract general ideas about society and its politics. Routinely reevaluate your political biases by applying indiscriminate compassion focused by intellectual rigor based on factual data.
I recommend you listen to all of Timothy Snyder’s comments in the ‘Democracy Now’ video cited above.