Howard Jacobson takes a dim view, and rightly so, of the style of apologetics that have been befouling Western liberal media with supposedly more complex perspectives on acts of mass murder than the simple truth that murder is what they are and they're unconditionally wrong. In that context, however, I was slightly disconcerted by the following remark.
For Allah will no more forgive him [the shooter of the innocent] than Jesus will. Marx on the other hand... but then that's why no man of feeling should be a Marxist.
It's not that, being a Marxist myself, I begrudge Howard the judgement that no one of feeling should be a Marxist. He's perfectly entitled to it, given how many Marxists, past and present, have used Marxist categories for precisely the kind of excuse-making on behalf of the killing of the innocent that he laments. For my own part, I happen to think that this isn't the only kind of Marxism possible, since like any other tradition of ideas Marxism is capable of change. There are Marxists who understand the necessity of embodying human rights norms at the heart of any morally acceptable political outlook today and who reject absolutely the violations of civilized constraints in the interests of some highly speculative future good. Still, as I've argued at some length before, there are different meanings of being a Marxist, and Howard won't be short of material in finding ways to justify his own expressed preference.
What surprises me in the above-quoted judgement of his is how lightly, by implication, it lets off other doctrines and their adherents. Allah and Jesus would not forgive. As if that ever stopped anyone from adapting religious belief to suit their murderous or oppressive purposes. Fanatical commitment, or what Howard himself identifies as 'an unswerving conviction of rectitude', finds many different homes.
And as if the purveyors of excuses for modern terrorism were confined to ever-smaller groups of Marxists, rather than coming - as they do - from practically every shade of so-called progressive opinion and beyond: liberals, greens, anarchists, Guardianistas of every stripe, anti-imperialists, anti-Zionists, and plain fools by the cartload.