David Edgar has a piece in yesterday's Guardian about defectors from the left, whom he also refers to as apostates - a piece which his subeditors have chosen, not unreasonably, to present as being about a 'new generation of renegades'. There's a full and most sufficient response to Edgar from Andrew Anthony, which I urge you to read. These are merely observations of my own of a supplementary nature.
1. Who would want to defect from the kind of left that after September 11, 2001, could not bring itself to condemn this in plain speech as a crime of mass murder, but was full of the language of 'yes but' and 'blowback' and 'comeuppance'? Why, if I belonged to such a left, I would want to defect from it.
2. Who would want to defect from a left that could see no reason at all in favour of getting rid of a genocidal tyrant like Saddam Hussein, and that in opposing the Iraq war therefore treated support for the war from within the left as precisely renegacy? Me - that's a left I'd have no desire to be part of.
3. And who could dream of defecting from a left that treated the wanton targeting of Iraqi civilians in opposing the US-led occupation as the understandable tactics of a resistance one could not be too choosy about and should offer one's support? Yup, sign me right up. That's a left I'd want to defect from if I belonged to it.
4. Who ever would defect from a left that responded to the July 7 bombings in London with more apologias for the killers of the type that had followed 9/11? Include me in. I defect. I defect.
5. Could there be, anywhere, defectors from a left that, in a world by no means short of tyrannies, torturers, rank abusers of human rights, widespread poverty, extensive hunger, episodes of genocide, was obsessed above all with two countries, both of them democracies, as the source of all political evil - the United States and Israel? Just watch my dust: it's a left to be left.
6. Who could even think of defecting from the kind of left that still speaks in terms of 'defection' and 'apostasy', as if it possessed a truth given to it from some higher source and had the power to excommunicate? Now, that's a left I would find my way out of if I had to.
7. But then who would want to defect from a left which saw itself as uniting certain universal values, values like freedom and equality and justice, with the interests and struggles of the unfree, the wronged and the oppressed everywhere? Well, I don't know who would want to defect from this kind of left. But when I ran into them I'd try to persuade them not to defect. I'd tell them that there's a left worth belonging to, and that those who belong to it should limit their defections to parting company with the lefts that discredit its values and its better traditions.