Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Old schemes and new schisms

with 2 comments

Guest post by Des Derwin

There are two general templates, one for each side of the divide on the war that is now congealing on the left, and which will mark it for the next period. Views on the war, often backed up with evidence and argument, often, and increasingly, assuming one or other of the templates and theories, spring from those assumptions, with the assumed basic starting point being increasingly advanced as a premise, even a common sense argument. People on the left are now beginning to settle into talking past each other on Ukraine, with some accompanying denunciation and insult. 

Expressing it simply and analogously, one template is a war like a gang war, like the Kinahan-Hutch feud  toward which any reasonable and sociable person would be neutrally hostile to both sides, against both sides and for the war to end; a war between two sets of robbers and murderers to end, full stop, right now. 

The other template sees the invasion of Ukraine as an aggravated burglary in which a modest house is broken into, the occupants assaulted, older people beaten and the place ransacked almost beyond repair. If some at home could defend themselves no reasonable person would object to that, or say they should stop and allow their house to be wrecked and their relations beaten. If you could help the defender you would, even to the extent of handing them a weapon or joining with them if you could. You would, horror, probably call the cops.

There are sub-templates of course, as some believe that one of the gangs in the first template, the Hutches perhaps, are better in one way or another. Are pressed and provoked by the Kinahans, who are the dominant gang, and it would be better by far if the Hutches – who have actually struck first and spectacularly, struck a weaker neighbour friendly to the Kinahans – won and weakened the Kinahans. A few don’t see the Hutches as a gang at all and want them to win. Another variant is that there are two levels to the war, the gang feud (an inter-imperialist war), and simultaneously brutal shootings in homes and neighbourhoods when innocent ‘civilians’ get killed (a war of imperialist aggression and national defense). Some recognise both levels, prioritise the first and warn against defensive help to the victim in case it escalates all the way to Armageddon.

These schematic starting points invest the attitude of the myriad of left groups and individuals. Many base their approach on evidence, many base it on a precooked or underlying geopolitical worldview, with evidence, and sometimes with little evidence; many (non-political) people quickly reach their own spontaneous conclusions based on their own common sense and decency, and some reasonable credibility in the mainstream news media. 

These broadly rival templates overlap and operate within previous great gulfs like stalinism, trotskyism, anarchism and even left social democracy. They are the tip of previously developing and now hardening differences in political weltanschauung.

For the record I fall broadly under the second template. The war is a brutal invasion by an imperialist power. There is a context of rival imperialisms certainly, as there are several contexts for everything political and military: class exploitation, regional political and material interests, particular histories, workers’ internationalism, the climate crisis, etc, etc. 

There are fallouts which our local rulers will seek to use in the usual ‘shock doctrine’ way, which we need to resist, in Ireland’s case ending or diluting formal neutrality and initiating expensive militarisation. Maybe neutrality might paradoxically be the issue on which the Irish left can universally agree and unite on in common activity. But maybe not after the risen temperatures of our own civil war within the war. 

Written by tomasoflatharta

Apr 10, 2022 at 6:20 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] Des Derwin has a guest post here on Tomás Ó Flatharta on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia which i… […]

  2. Neutral on the Kinahan-Hutch Feud?!
    I’ve always had a sneaking regard for The Monk but then I don’t live in Dublin!!

    Great analysis, Des.

    nollaigoj

    Apr 11, 2022 at 12:30 pm


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