Friday, March 21, 2008
I read John Harris pining for the spirit of 1968 just as Tariq Ali was on Desert Island Discs pining, in his grandiloquent, toff tones, for much the same thing. Meanwhile, here's Polly trying once again to get Gordon back on track by embracing, if not quite the spirit of '68, at least some distant approximation. Without actually agreeing with them, one can see their point. The right, from the later eighties onwards, abandoned conservatism in favour of, first, neoliberalism and then neoconservatism. Thanks to the abject failure of their Iraq strategy, which has weakened appallingly America's position in the world, the neocons are now dead, but, like Mick Jagger in the Randy Newman song, they don't know it. (I regard the current Iraq strategy - military realism - as the polar opposite of the neocons' war-lite, knock 'em down and they'll be fine strategy.) Neocons like William Kristol are still convincing themselves they are among the living by trying to swift-boat Barack Obama. The neocons being what they are - cliquish, gangsterish - they'll probably succeed. But they're still dead. Meanwhile, under the shadow of the credit crunch, the neolibs once again find their vision of markets free of all state encumbrances looking a touch implausible. Paul Krugman - with whom I often disagree - gets it about right. In this context, once can see why the left should feel it's time has come again. But the '68ers, the neocons and the neolibs have one big thing in common, they are all fantasists. Nobody with any insight into history and human nature could possibly believe such nonsensical programmes. I've dabbled in them all at one time or another, so, with some small authority, I can tell you they're all the bleeding same - self-aggrandising, cruel simplifications that satisfy the need of the faithless to believe. I don't know what remains. Sane pragmatists with a solid tragic sense are hard to find these days. But, trust me, one day they'll be back - wry, sceptical, occasionally drunk, and never so dumb as to dazzled by the spectre of a perfect future.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 9:36 am