Phil Graham on Tue, 15 Feb 2000 19:40:05 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Wark, Criticism, Democracy


Don't you think that the right to criticise is central to democracy, if
not definitive of it? It appears that, like the Mulganites in Britain, you
would rather that all the dissenters just shut up and let you "experts"
get on with deciding what's best for everybody so that you can "just do
it".  That's the Third Way for you: efficient and effective. 
Whatever your answer, it seems like you've invented a new critical genre: 
critical metacritique; criticism of criticism by means of criticism, all
in the name of progressive governance. Well done! It takes a great deal of
practice in circular thought and self-justification to pull something like
that off. 

And your approach is very typical of the "new" left, the Third Way, as you
lot like to call yourselves. The approach goes like this: first, critise
the critics for criticising. Next, conjure up an incomprehensible
abstraction, like for example "national debt", and ask stupid questions
about it as if it existed somewhere outside people's imagination. Then go
on to make impostures of expertise under the pretense that you actually
know the answers ("it's not hard to find the real politics").

The next step is then to drag up "all the old ways", the "failures", as if
they ever existed in pure form. Then - HEY PRESTO! - roll out The Third
Way as the snake-oil cure-all. It's as if there were only two ways before.
It's as if the Third Way were something more than a particular rhetorical
style in search of content. 

Interesting that you choose to mention mass murder to show us the failures
of the past, because the last lot of Third Way politicians that made a
decent dent in history were Hitler, Moseley, and Mussolini. In fact,
here's a little quote from Josef Goebbels for you. He's talking about
critics. He didn't like criticism either, especially not from
intellectuals, especially not about politics. And he didn't think much of
history, the future's all that matters. Nor did he like people who weren't
visionary, pragmatic, and/or "dynamically" involved in sorting out the
answers for the rest of Germany: 

"This ability to believe is rather weak in some circles, above all in
those with money and education. They may trust more in pure cold reason
than a glowing idealistic heart. Our so-called intellectuals do not like
to hear this, but it is true anyway. They know so much that in the end
they do not know what to do with their wisdom. They can see the past, but
not much of the present, and nothing at all of the future. Their
imagination is insufficient to deal with a distant goal in a way such that
one already thinks it achieved. 

"They were also unable to believe in the victory of National Socialism
while the National Socialist movement was still fighting for power. They
are as little able today to believe in the greatness of our national
German future. They perceive only what they can see, but not on what is
happening, and what will happen. 

"That is why their carping criticisms generally focus on laughable
trivialities.  Whenever some unavoidable difficulty pops up, the kind of
thing that always happens, they are immediately inclined to doubt
everything and to throw the baby out with the bath water. To them
difficulties are not there to be mastered, rather to be surrendered to."

Goebbels's critics were focused on failed ideals and trivialities, at
least as far as he was concerned. Was it you who used the words "carping
criticisms" to describe dissenting intellectuals in a recent AFR article,
or was that Mulgan in the recent "Marxism Today" revival? I have trouble
telling you two apart in matters of Third Way propaganda. Check out the
similarities in your standpoints and your rhetorical methods, Mackenzie. 
You are acting like a totalitarian (that's the name Mussolini gave to what
we now call the Whole Of Government approach here in Australia - you knew
that, right?). 

Next time you want to diminish someone's right to criticise - whether it's
criticism of you or anybody else or any idea whatsoever - think about what
it is you're doing in the name of democracy and, as you would have us
believe, good governance. 

No wonder you Third Way people don't like history. 

The first thing to remember is that Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Moseley, et
al were firstly socialists. They started out on the Left of politics, not
the Right, if there were ever any such distinction to be made on a global
basis. They were all looking for a Third Way. A good education for you in
this might be Roger Eatwell's (1997) "Fascism: A History".

You are making the same mistake that all would-be power players make: you
think that once your time comes, you'll be the best person top make the
big decisions. Some of us may have other ideas. Hopefully you'll let us
express them, sir. 

Phil Graham

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